9th Aug 2020

EU battery law could prove useless

EU member states and MEPs have agreed a new law on recycling batteries aimed at protecting consumers and the environment from hazardous chemicals, but there are fears it will hardly have any impact.

"In reality there is not much effect in this directive," said an EU diplomat referring to the law agreed late on Tuesday evening (2 May).

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The new law calls for a ban on the nickel-cadmium chemical in batteries but has an exemption for industrial power tools which account for 70 percent of the EU market.

It bans the sale of batteries containing more than 0.0005 percent of mercury and portable batteries, such as mobile phone batteries - with more than 0.002 percent of cadmium, except for those used in emergency alarm systems, medical devices and cordless power tools.

The exemptions are to be reviewed a maximum of four years after the implementation of the law.

Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Sweden all favoured a total ban on nickel-cadmium (NiCad) batteries but many other EU member states refused to consider alternatives currently available on the market to replace NiCad batteries, such as Lithium Metal Hydride (LiMH) batteries.

There was a strong lobbying effort from large companies making power tools and from the countries where they are based, the diplomat said.

Hans Craen of the European Portable Battery Association said his group was actively lobbying, "especially during the parliament's second reading," he said noting that MEPs wanted very high and unrealistic targets at first.

Around 160,000 tonnes of portable batteries, 190,000 tonnes of industrial batteries and 800,000 tonnes of automotive batteries are sent out on the EU market each year.

The new rules also set targets for collecting and recycling batteries, requiring member states to collect a quarter of all portable batteries by 2012, rising to 45 percent in 2016.

Battery retailers will have a legal obligation to help collecting.

Once collected, battery manufacturers will have to pay for the bill of recycling 75 percent of the weight of NiCad batteries, 65 percent for lead batteries and half the weight of other batteries.

Both the parliament and the 25 member states still need to formally endorse the new law.

Once adopted, the new battery directive will go into effect after two years and will then replace the existing battery directive from 1991.


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