Batteries: Obligations on battery producers

If your company is classed as a batteries producer in an EU Member State, then you will have direct responsibility to

  • Ensure new batteries placed on the market after 26 September 2008 comply with the Directive substance restrictions for mercury and cadmium;
  • Label new batteries placed on the market after 26 September 2008 with the crossed-out wheelie bin, chemical symbol if the battery exceeds certain concentrations for mercury, cadmium and lead and, if a portable or automotive battery, mark the battery capacity;
  • Register as a battery producer in that country; and
  • Finance the recovery, treatment and disposal of batteries at the end of their life;

Substance restrictions

The battery producer must ensure that all batteries they place on the market in a Member State, whether or not incorporated into appliances, comply with the following substance restrictions from 26 September 2008:Batteries

  • All batteries must contain < 0.0005% mercury w/w, except for:
    • button cells which must contain < 2% mercury w/w (from 1 October 2015, button cells must also contain < 0.0005% mercury w/w)
  • Portable batteries must contain < 0.002% cadmium w/w, except for:
    • batteries used in emergency and alarm systems, including emergency lighting;
    • medical equipment
    • cordless power tools (as of 31 December 2016 this exemption for batteries in cordless power tools is removed)

This means there is a partial ban on Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) batteries in all uses except for emergency and alarm systems, medical equipment and cordless power tools (as of 31 December 2016 this exemption for batteries in cordless power tools is removed).

Note that there is no restriction on lead in batteries but if a battery contains > 0.004% lead by weight it must be labelled with the symbol “Pb”. Batteries, accumulators and button cells containing more than 0.0005% mercury, must be labelled with the symbol “Hg”.

Labelling of batteries and battery packs

The battery producer must ensure that all batteries and button cells they place on the market after 26 September 2008 are labelled with:

  • The crossed-out wheelie bin.  This size of the symbol must cover at least 3% of the area of the largest side of the battery or battery pack, up to a maximum size of 5cm x 5cm.  In the case of cylindrical cells, the size of the symbol must cover at least 1.5% of the surface area of the battery, up to a maximum size of 5cm x 5cm.  Where the size of the battery would be such that the symbol would be smaller than 0.5cm x 0.5cm then the battery or battery pack need not be marked but instead the crossed-out wheelie bin must be printed on the packaging to a size of at least 1cm x 1cm.  If this size of battery is sold incorporated into an appliance, a crossed-out wheelie bin must be printed on the packaging of the appliance or the appliance itself to a size of at least 1cm x 1cm.
  • Chemical symbol underneath the crossed out wheelie bin if the battery exceeds the following concentrations
    • Hg if > 0.0005%
    • Cd if > 0.002%
    • Pb if > 0.004%

The chemical symbol must cover an area of at least one quarter of the size of the crossed-out wheelie bin symbol.  This includes printing the chemical symbol below the crossed-wheelie bin on the packaging, if the battery is too small for the crossed-out wheelie bin and chemical symbol to be printed on the battery.

The commission regulation 1103/2010 was published in the official journal on 30 November 2010 and requires the capacity labelling of portable rechargeable and automotive batteries from 31 May 2012.

Registration, collection, treatment and recycling requirements

For producers of portable batteries to meet the producer registration and collection and recycling requirements there is no option except to join an approved collective compliance scheme in each Member State.  However, some Member States regulations enable a producer of industrial batteries to adopt an individual compliance approach. The registration process and deadlines are different in each EU Member State.

All battery recycling processes are required to meet the following recycling efficiencies by September 2011 for batteries which are collected:

  • Lead-acid batteries: recycle lead as far as technically feasible and recycle a minimum of 65% of batteries by average weight;
  • Nickel-cadmium batteries: recycle cadmium as far as technically feasible and recycle a minimum of 75% of batteries by average weight;
  • All other batteries: recycle a minimum of 50% of batteries by average weight

Article 18 allows Member States to exempt small producers from the collection, recycling and reporting requirements.  The UK is currently the only Member State which has implemented this exemption, for small producers of portable batteries.

Producers of portable batteries

Article 8 of the Directive requires Member States to ensure that battery producers provide appropriate collection, recycling and reporting schemes for waste portable batteries in each Member State. The Directive lays down the following criteria for these schemes:

  • They shall enable end-users to discard waste portable batteries at an accessible collection point in their vicinity, the number of collection points being related to population density. Collection points set up for this purpose shall not be subject to the registration or permit requirements of the Waste Framework Directive (2006/12/EC) or the Hazardous Waste Directive (91/689/EEC).
  • Schemes shall require distributors to take back waste portable batteries at no charge when supplying new ones, unless an assessment shows that alternative existing schemes are at least as effective in attaining the environmental aims of this Directive. EU Member States shall make public such assessments.
  • Schemes shall not involve any charge to end-users when discarding waste portable batteries, nor any obligation to buy a new battery.
  • Schemes may be run in conjunction with schemes set up under the WEEE Directive.

The Directive also requires Member States to achieve the following collection rates based on the weight / number of portable batteries sold in that Member State in the previous year:

  • 25% collection rate by 26 September 2012
  • 45% collection rate by 26 September 2016

In practice, Member States will pass these collection rate requirements on to compliance schemes.  Where allowed in a particular Member State, producers who choose not to join compliance schemes but instead provide their own battery collection and recycling arrangements, may be required to meet these collection rates individually.

Article 16 (1) requires producers (acting through a compliance scheme or through their own individual collection and recycling arrangements) to finance the costs of collection, treatment and recycling of waste portable batteries which are collected at collection points.  Article 16 (4) specifically prohibits the costs of collection, treatment and recycling to be shown separately in the price paid by end-users when they buy portable batteries.

Producers of industrial and automotive batteries

Article 8 of the Directive requires Member States to ensure that producers of industrial batteries, or third-parties acting on their behalf (including collective schemes) take-back waste industrial batteries, regardless of chemical composition and origin.  In addition, Article 8 of the Directive requires Member States to ensure that producers of automotive batteries, or third-parties acting acting on their behalf (including collective schemes) collect waste automotive batteries from end-users or from nearby collection points (where collection has not  been carried out by collective schemes set up in accordance with the EU Directive for End-of-Life Vehicles).

Article 14 bans the disposal of any waste industrial and automotive batteries to landfill or by incineration.  Therefore, this requires all industrial and automotive batteries to be collected for recycling.  In principle, Member States can insist that compliance schemes (or individual producers who provide their own collection and recycling arrangements) meet a 100% collection target to demonstrate that no industrial or automotive batteries are disposed to landfill or by incineration.

Article 16 (1) requires producers (acting through a compliance scheme or through their own individual collection and recycling arrangements) to finance the costs of collection, treatment and recycling of waste industrial and automotive batteries which are collected.  However, Article 16 (5) does allow producers and users of industrial and automotive batteries to agree other arrangements to finance these costs.  For example, the sales contract between the producer and the user can stipulate that the user is responsible for financing some or all of the costs of collection, treatment and recycling.