European Union: The Battery Directive

An Expert's View about Electrical, Measuring and Testing Equipment in Germany

Posted on: 24 Oct 2011

Batteries are regulated in the EU under the Directive on Batteries and Accumulators and Waste Batteries and Accumulators (Directive 2006/66) which came into force in September 2006. This Directive replaced the original Battery Directive of 1991 (Directive 91/157).

The 2006 Directive is a general framework, and several provisions of the text were clarified over the past two years by the issuance of further EU rules on exemptions, reporting obligations, registration and labeling (see points 1, 5, 7 and 10). In addition, several companies have sought clarification from CSEU on the relationship between the Battery Directive and other EU environmental legislation such as the Directive on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and the Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). CSEU is therefore providing this update on the Battery Directive.

The 2006 Battery Directive applies to all batteries and accumulators put on the EU market including automotive, industrial and portable batteries. It aims to protect the environment by restricting the sale of batteries and accumulators that contain mercury or cadmium and by promoting a high level of collection and recycling. It places the responsibility on producers to finance the costs associated with the collection, treatment and recycling of used batteries and accumulators. The directive also includes provisions on the labeling of batteries and their removability from equipment. This report summarizes the main requirements of the Battery Directive. It is aimed at U.S. exporters to the EU that produce and use batteries and accumulators and those involved in the collection, treatment and recycling of batteries and accumulators.

The Requirements of the Battery Directive
Directive 2006/66 applies to all types of batteries and accumulators, regardless of their shape, volume, weight, material composition or use, and is in line with the “producer responsibility principle.” A battery producer is defined as the person, in an EU member State, who supplies or makes available to a third party batteries or accumulator (including those incorporated into appliances or vehicles) within the territory of that Member State for the first time on a professional basis, regardless of the selling technique used. A person who imports batteries into the customs territory of the European Union may also be a battery producer, as could be a distributor. The main provisions of the directive are as follows:

1. Ban on the sales of certain batteries containing hazardous substances (Article14)
The directive bans the sale of all batteries and accumulators containing more than 0.0005% of Mercury (Hg) by weight, except for button cells with less than 2% mercury by weight.
The ban on cadmium: for portable batteries and accumulators, it is prohibited to use more than 0.002% of Cadmium (Cd) by weight. There is an exemption for emergency lighting and alarm systems, cordless power tools and medical equipment.
The exemption was up for review in 2010. In December 2010 the European Commission (EC) concluded that withdrawing the exemption for cordless power tools from the ban on cadmium in batteries and accumulators was not appropriate; other exemptions are not affected.

2. Collection schemes (Article 8)
For portable batteries and accumulators discarded by the user (referred to in the Directive as “waste portable batteries and accumulators”), Member States are required to establish national collection systems to allow consumers to return these products free of charge. EU countries have set up collection schemes for waste batteries, with easily accessible collection points made available to consumers. In some countries, organizations taking care of waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) also deal with the collection of waste batteries.
Producers of industrial batteries and accumulators also have to take back industrial batteries from end-users. Producers of automotive batteries and accumulators have to set up collection schemes for the batteries not collected according to the requirements of the EU directive on end-of-life vehicles (ELV). (Note: If a battery is incorporated in an end-of-life vehicle, it will be collected on the basis of the ELV directive. Collection will be paid by the car producers. Battery producers become responsible for further treatment once the car battery is removed from the end-of-life vehicle).
3. Minimum collection targets for portable batteries (Article 10):

Member States have to achieve the following minimum collection rates:
. 25% by 2012
. 45% by 2016

4. Ban on the landfilling and incineration of automotive and industrial batteries (Article 14)

The aim of the directive is to prevent used batteries from ending in incinerators or landfills and to recover the various metals used in batteries. It requires Member States to prohibit the disposal in landfills or by incineration of waste industrial and automotive batteries, which are mainly lead-acid and nickel-cadmium batteries, to guarantee a collection of 100% of those batteries.
5. Minimum treatment and recycling requirements for all batteries (Article 12)

Treatment and recycling schemes had to be established by September 2009. Member States are still able to landfill portable batteries containing cadmium, mercury or lead, instead of recycling them, if no viable end market is available, or as part of a strategy to phase out heavy metals.
Minimum treatment requirements are detailed in Annex III to the Directive; treatment must include, at a minimum, removal of all fluids and acids.
Member States had to meet a target to recycle 50% of general consumer batteries by 2010. By the same date, countries had to achieve stricter recycling targets for lead-acid and nickel-cadmium batteries of 65% and 75% respectively (Annex III). Per EC Decision 2009/851/EC, Member States will start reporting on these targets for each calendar year as from September 2011.

The directive includes provisions requiring Member States to encourage the development of new recycling and treatment technologies for batteries and accumulators (Article 13). The directive also allows Member States to use economic instruments, such as differentiated taxes, to promote the collection of waste batteries and accumulators or to promote the use of batteries and accumulators containing less polluting substances (Article 9). The Battery Directive is designed to be a market driver, creating opportunities for battery recycling and treatment technologies and services, as well as for producers of batteries and accumulators that contain smaller quantities of dangerous substances or which contain less polluting substances, in particular substitutes of lead, mercury and cadmium.

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Posted: 24 October 2011

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