The batteries directive came into force in September 2008, but it will be another 18 months before recycling targets come into force and the regulation really bites. Mercury and cadmium usage are being limited, resulting in the banning of NiCd batteries.

Producers are to be responsible for financing the collection, treatment and recycling of waste batteries.  Producers are not just battery manufacturers, but also battery importors and distributors, as well as equipment manufacturers who sell equipment containing one or more batteries. Most types of battery producers will be obliged to register in each EU State where they place batteries on the market, typically through a WEEE like compliance scheme.

The approaches to compliance within many EU States, including the UK, are still under discussion, with different approaches for portable, industrial and automotive batteries to be adopted in some countries. Collection rates for portable batteries are currently very low in many EU States, including the UK, whereas collection rates for many types of industrial and automotive lead-acid batteries are already very high.

In addition to requiring new labeling of batteries requirements, to help consumers make informed choices, the regulations require new product designs to ensure that any battery used within the product can be easily removed.  This is covered in Article 11 of the new Directive which requries that electrical equipment must be made in such a way as to allow all batteries to be “readily removed”. Readily removed is not defined which is probably more helpful than it appears. The EC has published some draft guidance but this is of only limited use. However the specifics are that removal may be achieved either by hand or with tools. This requirement is intended to ensure that equipment users are able to remove batteries by opening a cover by hand or after removal of one, or a small number of screws. Lengthy dismantling which takes considerable time would not be permitted. However, the boundary is not defined and relies on a level of common sense.

The Directive also requires the producer to provide the user with instructions on how to safely remove the battery and these must be provided with the product (typcially in the user manual or documentation supplied with a product).

Exemptions from this requirement are provided: -“for safety, performance, medical or data integrity reasons, continuity of power supply is necessary and requires a permanent connection”. Under these circumstances, the battery can be built in to the product so that its removal
is difficult.

Although all producers need to register in all EU States in which they operate, some EU States, such as the UK, plan to exclude small producers from financing battery collection and recycling.  However others, such as Netherlands do not exclude small producers.

Interestingly, with the prices of raw materials becoming steadily higher, the introduction of this regulation is happening at a time where the recovery of metals from batteries could be commercially viable, rather than enforced.

If you fail to comply with the batteries directive you will have failed to provide a duty of care on waste and will therefore be committing a criminal offence.

defra Batteries Directive Information
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