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Disposal of spent batteries and accumulators

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Disposal of spent batteries and accumulators

This legislation prohibits the placing on the market of most batteries and accumulators with a certain mercury or cadmium content and establishes rules for the collection, recycling, treatment and disposal of batteries and accumulators.

ACT

Directive 2006/66/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 September 2006 on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators and repealing Directive 91/157/EEC [See amending acts].

SUMMARY

The Directive prohibits the placing on the market of certain batteries and accumulators with a mercury or cadmium content above a fixed threshold. In addition, it promotes a high rate of collection and recycling of waste batteries and accumulators and improvement in the environmental performance of all involved in the life-cycle of batteries and accumulators, including their recycling and disposal.

The aim is to cut the amount of hazardous substances - in particular, mercury, cadmium and lead - dumped in the environment; this should be done by reducing the use of these substances in batteries and accumulators and by treating and re-using the amounts that are used.

The Directive applies to all types of batteries and accumulators, apart from those used in equipment to protect Member States' security or for military purposes, or in equipment designed to be sent into space. It therefore covers a wider range of products than Directive 91/157/EEC, which applied only to batteries containing mercury, lead or cadmium, and excluded button cells.

As regards the presence of mercury, the Directive prohibits batteries and accumulators, whether or not incorporated in appliances, containing more than 0,0005 % by weight of mercury. Button cells with a mercury content of no more than 2 % by weight are exempted from this prohibition until October 2015 (in the case of button cells for hearing aids, this exemption will, however, remain under review by the Commission);

Concerning cadmium, portable batteries and accumulators, including those incorporated in appliances, with a cadmium content by weight of more than 0,002 % are prohibited (except for portable batteries and accumulators for use in emergency and alarm systems or medical equipment). An exemption from this prohibition is established for portable batteries and accumulators for cordless power tools until 31 December 2016, enabling the recycling industry and consumers along the whole value chain to further adapt to the relevant substitute technologies.

To ensure that a high proportion of spent batteries and accumulators are recycled, Member States must take whatever measures are needed (including economic instruments) to promote and maximise separate waste collections and prevent batteries and accumulators being thrown away as unsorted municipal refuse. They have to make arrangements enabling end-users to discard spent batteries and accumulators at collection points in their vicinity and have them taken back at no charge by the producers. Collection rates of at least 25 % had to be reached by 26 September 2012 and 45 % by 26 September 2016 respectively.

According to Directive 2013/56/EU, it must be possible to remove batteries and accumulators readily and safely. Thus, appliances incorporating batteries and accumulators must be accompanied by instructions on how these can be safely removed by either the end-user or by independent qualified professionals.

Member States also have to ensure that batteries and accumulators that have been collected are treated and recycled using best available TECHNIQUES. Energy recovery is not considered a recycling process.

As a minimum, treatment must include removal of all fluids and acids. Batteries and accumulators must be treated and stored (even if only temporarily) in sites with impermeable surfaces and weatherproof covering, or in suitable containers. The Directive also establishes obligations in relation to the efficiencies of the recycling processes to which batteries are subject to, depending on their chemical composition.

Member States may dispose of batteries and accumulators containing cadmium, mercury or lead in landfills or underground storage if there is no viable end-market for the recycling products, or if a detailed assessment of environmental, economic and social impact concludes that recycling is not the best solution,. Otherwise, it is prohibited to put waste from industrial and automotive batteries and accumulators into landfill, or to incinerate it; only residues from treating and recycling them may be disposed of in these ways.

Treatment and recycling may take place outside the Member State concerned or even outside the Community, provided EU legislation on the shipment of waste is respected.

The producers have to bear the cost of collecting, treating and recycling industrial, automotive and portable batteries and accumulators, as well as the costs of campaigns to inform the public of these arrangements. Small producers may be exempted from this obligation if this does not impede the proper functioning of the collection and recycling schemes. All producers of batteries and accumulators have to be registered.

End-users must receive information on several subjects and through different channels:

  • on the potential effects on the environment and human health of the substances used in batteries and accumulators, and on the collection and recycling arrangements at their disposal, through campaigns or directly by distributors;
  • on the capacity of the accumulator or the portable battery or on the presence of chemicals above a certain threshold, information will be given using visible, legible and indelible markings on batteries, accumulators and battery packs;
  • on the need to ensure separate collection for batteries or accumulators, the symbol of the crossed-out wheeled bin is to be used.

Member States must report to the Commission on the implementation of the Directive and the measures they are taking to encourage developments affecting the impact of batteries and accumulators on the environment (including new recycling and treatment techniques). Some aspects of the Directive were reviewed in 2013 (see Directive 2013/56/EU.)

Context

This Directive repeals and replaces Directive 91/157/EEC.

Several hundred thousand tonnes of industrial and portable batteries and accumulators are placed on the Community market every year. A wide range of metals are used, from mercury, lead and cadmium to nickel, copper, zinc, manganese and lithium.

Disposing of the waste from these products pollutes the atmosphere (in the case of incineration) and contaminates ground-cover and water (in the case of landfill or burial). Through appropriate rules it will be possible to reduce the environmental pollution from this waste. In addition, recycling the waste enables the recovery of thousands of tonnes of metals, including precious metals like nickel, cobalt and silver.

More information on this topic is available on the European Commission's website.

REFERENCES

Act

Entry into force

Transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2006/66/EC

26.9.2006

26.9.2008

OJ L 266 of 26.9.2006

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2008/12/EC

20.3.2008

-

OJ L 76 of 19.3.2008

Directive 2008/103/EC

5.12.2008

5.1.2009

OJ L 327 of 5.12.2008

Directive 2013/56/EU

30.12.2013

1.7.2015

OJ L 329 of 10.12.2013

RELATED ACTS

Commission Decision 2008/763/EC of 29 September 2008 establishing, pursuant to Directive 2006/66/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, a common methodology for the calculation of annual sales of portable batteries and accumulators to end-users [Official Journal L 262 of 1.10.2008].

Last updated: 19.05.2014

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