The Council and the European Parliament today reached a provisional political agreement on a proposal to strengthen sustainability rules for batteries and waste batteries. For the first time, the legislation will regulate the entire life cycle of a battery – from production to reuse and recycling – and ensure that they are safe, sustainable and competitive. The deal is provisional pending formal adoption in both institutions.

Batteries are a key element of the EU’s shift towards zero-emission modes of transport. As demand for batteries will grow by more than ten-fold by 2030, we need to make sure we have enough batteries and that they are sustainable throughout their supply chains. The new rules will promote the competitiveness of the European industry and ensure that end-of-life batteries will be properly collected and recycled so that useful materials are recovered, and toxic substances are not released into the environment. Marian Jurečka, Czech minister of the environment

The provisional agreement reached between the Council and the Parliament will apply to all batteries, including all waste portable batteries, electric vehicle batteries, industrial batteries, starting, lightning and ignition (SLI) batteries (used mostly for vehicles and machinery) and batteries for light means of transport (e.g. electric bikes, e-mopeds, e-scooters).

Circular economy

The new rules aim to promote a circular economy by regulating batteries throughout their life cycle. The regulation, therefore, establishes end-of-life requirements, including collection targets and obligations, targets for the recovery of materials and extended producer responsibility. The agreement sets targets for producers to collect waste portable batteries (63% by the end of 2027 and 73% by the end of 2030) and introduces a dedicated collection objective for waste batteries for light means of transport (51% by the end of 2028 and 61% by the end of 2031).

The co-legislators agreed to set the target for lithium recovery from waste batteries to 50% by 2027 and 80% in 2031, which can be amended through delegated acts depending on the market and technological developments and the availability of lithium.

The agreement provides for mandatory minimum levels of recycled content for industrial, SLI batteries and EV batteries. These are initially set at 16% for cobalt, 85% for lead, 6% for lithium and 6% for nickel. The regulation sets an obligation for batteries to hold recycled content documentation. The agreement sets a recycling efficiency target for nickel-cadmium batteries of 80% by 2025 and other waste batteries of 50% by 2025. The agreement provides that portable batteries incorporated into appliances should be removable and replaceable by the end-user, leaving sufficient time for operators to adapt the design of their products to this requirement (42 months after entry into force of the regulation). This is an important provision for consumers. Light means of transport batteries will be replaceable by an independent professional.

Fair rules for all operators

The new rules aim to improve the functioning of the internal market for batteries and ensure fairer competition thanks to the safety, sustainability and labelling requirements. This will be reached through performance, durability and safety criteria, tight restrictions for hazardous substances like mercury, cadmium and lead and mandatory information on the carbon footprint of batteries.

The regulation also introduces labelling and information requirements, among other things, on the battery’s components and recycled content, and an electronic “battery passport” and a QR code. The agreement also aims to make the text clearer and more coherent and facilitate its application by member states and economic actors on the market with a realistic implementation schedule. Notably, labelling requirements will apply after 36 months after entry into force of the Regulation and after 42 months for the QR code.

Reducing environmental and social impacts

The new regulation aims to reduce environmental and social impacts throughout the life cycle of the battery. To that end, the provisional agreement sets tight due diligence rules for operators who must verify the source of raw materials used for batteries placed on the market. The deal provides for an exemption for SMEs from the due diligence rules.

Source: European Council