The European Environmental Bureau sees the EU regulation as a step forward in using a holistic set of rules for a product’s entire lifecycle, and a win for many green advocacy calls on social and environmental standards of batteries.
However, the EEB has been and continues to advocate for more ambitious provisions related due diligence, ecodesign of batteries, repair, recycling, use of recycled content, safe take-back systems and consumer information.
Producers to be held accountable
A leap forward for environmental and social standards is the due diligence for battery producers. Producers of all batteries sold in Europe will soon be required to prevent human rights and the environmental abuses across their supply chain. Additionally, producers will have to adhere to a maximum carbon footprint by 2027, a threshold that will push companies towards clean energy use and integrating recycled content.
Regrettably the current proposal will apply only to key raw minerals such as lithium, nickel, cobalt and graphite, forgoing the benefit of the new due diligence law for other materials including fossil fuels.
Closing the battery loops
Addressing the matter of waste and resource efficiency, the negotiated text has called for higher recycling targets for key materials: 95% of nickel and 80% of lithium by 2031. There will also be requirements for more diligent separate collection of batteries and use of recycled content for those key materials in new batteries.
Pushing for the right to repair
Rechargeable batteries are increasingly integrated into consumer electronics as well as e-bikes and scooters. When these batteries fail it can mean entire devices unnecessarily go to waste.
During the negotiations, the EEB and the Right to Repair campaign revealed that over 60% of consumer electronics included integrated lithium-ion batteries and that the design of batteries was driving waste, emissions and unnecessary consumer expenditure. NGOs, repairers and the recycling industry called for urgent action to make batteries easier to remove and replace.
Finally, the agreed regulation will go a long way to addressing poor battery design by ensuring that batteries in all consumer electronics should be user replaceable, with spare batteries available for five years, and a ban on using software which hampers replacement. Campaigners fear however, that an exemption for products used in wet conditions will leave many products like shavers, toothbrushes and wearables (headphones and watches) with impossibly difficult to replace batteries.
“Given the vast environmental and societal impact of producing batteries and electronics, designing them so they can be easily repaired and recycled is common sense. Europe’s new battery law supports these activities and sets a good precedent for future product legislation under development at the European level.”
Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, Deputy Policy Manager for Circular Economy
“In the race to decarbonisation, we need to aim not only for increasing electrification, but also to minimise the CO2 footprint of the elements that are crucial to the transition. In this context, boosting reuse, repair and recycling of batteries and its components will significantly help to reduce the carbon footprint along the entire supply chain.”
Piotr Barczak, Senior Policy Officer for Circular Economy and Waste
The EEB will be issuing a press release after the full text is made publicly available in the upcoming month.