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Disposal of spent batteries

Disposal of spent batteries

 

SUMMARY OF:

Directive 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators

WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE DIRECTIVE?

  • It prohibits the placing on the market of certain batteries (or accumulators)* with a mercury or cadmium content above a fixed threshold.
  • It promotes a high rate of collection and recycling of waste batteries and improvement in the environmental performance of all involved in the life-cycle of batteries, 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 by treating and re-using the amounts that are used.

KEY POINTS

  • The directive applies to all types of batteries, apart from those used in equipment to protect EU countries’ 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’, and which it repeals.
  • As regards the presence of mercury, the directive prohibits batteries, 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 were exempted from this prohibition until October 2015 (in the case of button cells for hearing aids, this exemption was, however, to remain under review by the European Commission);
  • Concerning cadmium, portable batteries, including those incorporated in appliances, with a cadmium content by weight of more than 0.002% are prohibited (except for portable batteries for use in emergency and alarm systems or medical equipment). There was an exemption from this prohibition for portable batteries 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 are recycled, EU countries must take whatever measures are needed (including economic instruments) to promote and maximise separate waste collections and prevent batteries being thrown away as unsorted municipal refuse. They have to make arrangements enabling end-users to discard spent batteries 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 2006/66/EC, as amended by Directive 2013/56/EU, it must be possible to remove batteries readily and safely. Thus, appliances incorporating batteries must be accompanied by instructions on how these can be safely removed by either the end-user or by independent qualified professionals.
  • EU countries also have to ensure that batteries 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 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.
  • EU countries may dispose of waste portable batteries 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. In addition, it is prohibited to put waste industrial and automotive batteries into landfill, or to incinerate it. However, residues of any batteries that have undergone both treatment and recycling may be disposed of in landfills or by incineration.
  • Treatment and recycling may take place outside the EU country concerned or even outside the EU, provided that Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 on the shipment of waste (see summary) is respected.
  • Producers (or third parties acting on their behalf) have to bear the net cost of collecting, treating and recycling industrial, automotive and portable batteries. Producers of portable batteries have to finance the cost arising from public information campaigns on the collection, treatment and recycling of all waste portable batteries. 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 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 on the collection and recycling arrangements at their disposal, through campaigns or directly by distributors;
    • on the capacity of 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, the symbol of the crossed-out wheeled bin is to be used.
  • EU countries must report to the Commission on the directive’s implementation and the measures they are taking to encourage developments affecting the impact of batteries on the environment (including new recycling and treatment techniques). Some aspects of the directive were reviewed in 2013 (see amending Directive 2013/56/EU).

FROM WHEN DOES THE DIRECTIVE APPLY?

  • Directive 2006/66/EC has applied since 26 September 2006 and had to become law in the EU countries by 26 September 2008.
  • Amending Directive 2013/56/EU has applied since 30 December 2013 and had to become law in the EU countries by 1 July 2015.

BACKGROUND

  • Several hundred thousand tonnes of industrial and portable batteries are placed on the EU 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). With appropriate rules, it is 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.
  • For more information, see:

KEY TERMS

Batteries or Accumulators: any source of electrical energy generated by direct conversion of chemical energy and consisting of one or more primary battery cells (non-rechargeable) or consisting of one or more secondary battery cells (rechargeable). In the context of this directive, batteries and accumulators are the same, for which only the word batteries is used.

MAIN DOCUMENT

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 (OJ L 266, 26.9.2006, pp. 1-14)

Successive amendments to Directive 2006/66/EC have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

RELATED DOCUMENTS

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 (OJ L 262, 1.10.2008, p. 39)

last update 09.06.2020

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