EU breaks battery deadlock

The EC has set targets for the recovery and recycling of spent batteries after the parliament and ministers from member states settled their differences to agree a compromise on the issue.

The European Parliament had wanted recycling rates for recovered batteries not containing cadmium or lead to be set at 55% but settled for 50% after the council of ministers through out its first proposal as too ambitious.

The directive mirrors the EC's better-known WEEE directive and will require manufacturers to pick up the bill for the recovery and recycling of their products.

Once the directive becomes national law member states will have four years to put in place the infrastructure required to collect 25% of spent batteries, rising to 45% after eight years.

There are also specific targets for recycling cadmium and lead batteries, set at 75% and 65% respectively.

Upping recycling rates will increase the recovery of valuable materials such as silver, nickel and cobalt but perhaps more importantly will protect human health and the environment.

Batteries that find their way into landfill sites can leach hazardous materials into the surrounding soil while incineration releases harmful emissions.

In some European countries such as Germany battery recycling is already well established while other states, like the UK, have introduced trial programmes to see where improvements could be made (see related story).

Small print in this week's agreement also means batteries must be removable from appliances and must be labelled to show their capacity for consumers to make informed choices.

There is also room for an exemption for small producers to reduce the burden of funding the waste management of spent batteries.

Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for the Environment, said: "The EU gives high priority to making sure that batteries and accumulators no longer cause health and environmental problems due to the heavy metals they contain.

"Now it is time to start implementing the provisions of the new Battery Directive. The faster we start to collect and recycle batteries, the better for the environment."

Approximately 800,000 tonnes of automotive batteries, 190,000 tonnes of industrial batteries and 160,000 tonnes of portable batteries used in household appliances every year within the EU.

Sam Bond



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