Retailers eligible for the Batteries Compliance Scheme are being urged to sign up ahead of the Christmas rush on batteries, to ensure they do not end up paying to have them recycled when the law changes in 2010.

From February 1 next year, retailers who sell more than 32kg of batteries a year the equivalent of one four-pack of AA batteries a day will be obliged to provide a 'battery take-back' facility for customers.

The returned batteries will be collected for free by a Battery Compliance Scheme operator (BCS) for recycling if retailers have signed up to the scheme.

Panasonic sales manager Tim Clark advised retailers to ensure they don't have to foot bill for collection if they are over the 32kg limit.

"Retailers should not expect to pay for the batteries to be collected and disposed of," Clark said. "This is the responsibility of Battery Compliance Scheme operators, who are obliged to collect them free of charge. Anyone offering to recycle your used batteries at a cost should be avoided."

Retailers who sign up for the scheme but who then sell less than 32kg a year may be charged for collection. However, Defra spokeswoman Liz Fairweather advised those in that position to contact the BCS to discuss how the situation could be worked out.

She also warned that any retailer who hadn't joined the scheme and who then sold more than the 32kg limit could face prosecution.

Defra is due to publish an on-line calculator to help retailers work out if they are over the 32kg limit. There will also be downloadable POS material available. It hopes to have these ready by the end of the year.

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