Britannia Zinc sees new materials source in recycling
LONDON - Britain\'s sole zinc producer, Britannia Zinc (BZL), will start recovering the metal from used domestic batteries next month in a pilot scheme the company hopes to see expanded across the country.
The move comes ahead of new European Union rules that should set tough targets for battery recycling in Britain, said Tom Cooney, environmental manager at BZL, which is owned by Australian metals miner MIM Holdings Ltd .
\"As the EU battery directive is likely to be introduced very soon...Britain will have to develop battery recycling as quickly as possible,\" Cooney told Reuters.
\"We\'re hoping to use this trial to establish our credentials in this field and ultimately we\'d be looking for batteries to be a profitable raw material in themselves.\"
Some 22,000 tonnes of batteries containing about 4,000 tonnes of potentially recyclable zinc are expected to be sold in the UK in 2002.
Almost all batteries sold in the UK each year end up in landfill sites. About two percent are transported to other countries for recycling, which critics say produces harmful emissions during transit.
Under the trial starting on September 16, used batteries will be collected in the southwestern city of Bristol and taken to Britannia Zinc\'s nearby plant at Avonmouth for processing.
Cooney said the volumes involved in the Bristol trial would not be large enough for the scheme to be profitable, but that the firm would benefit if the pilot was successful and similar schemes were set up elsewhere in Britain.
\"It will cost us money to recycle these batteries because we will have to make process adjustments to accommodate them, and realistically in the first 12 months there won\'t be huge volumes collected,\" he said.
\"But a few years down the track then certainly we would be looking at a significant contribution to our raw materials and the metals we produce on site coming from batteries.\"
Bristol residents will be able to dispose of old batteries from mobile phones, watches, personal stereos and other products in one recycling bag.
\"To a greater or lesser extent all batteries are recyclable,\" Cooney said.
Most batteries contain zinc, which analysts say can be recycled without any loss of its physical or chemical properties.
Recycled zinc accounts for some 30 percent of the world\'s zinc supply, or 2.9 million tonnes.
BZL plans to sell zinc recovered from Bristol through existing markets, Cooney said. The metal has many uses, including steel galvanising in the car and building industries.
Other materials present in batteries such as lead, cadmium and carbon will also be recovered and put to new uses, including the manufacture of new batteries.
Cooney said BZL was also developing a process to use iron and manganese recovered from batteries in road-paving materials, and the method should be operational within one or two years.
Story by Estelle Shirbon
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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