Brussels, 26 September 2008
Environment: new EU legislation requiring collection and recycling of spent batteries applies from today
Revised EU legislation that aims to protect human health and the environment by ensuring waste batteries are properly collected and recycled applies from today. The directive also makes producers responsible for the management of batteries once they become waste. Adopted by the European Parliament and Council in 2006, the revised Batteries Directive should be transposed by Member States into national law by today. So far seven Member States have communicated to the Commission national legislation which fully transposes the directive.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “The revision of the Batteries Directive represents another important step towards our goal of making Europe into a recycling society. By setting collection targets and requiring recycling, this legislation will also help to protect the health of European citizens and contribute to making consumption and production in the EU more sustainable. Those Member States that have not yet transposed it should do so without delay."
Environmental and health issues
Batteries contain a range of metals which are harmful to human health and the environment, including in some cases the hazardous heavy metals lead, cadmium and mercury. Collecting and recycling waste batteries prevents these substances from getting into the environment and saves energy and natural resources.
The new directive revises an existing directive on batteries from 1991 which has not succeeded in controlling adequately the risks they pose or creating a homogeneous framework for their collection and recycling. For example, almost one in two 'portable' batteries (small, sealed batteries, as opposed to industrial or automotive batteries) sold in the EU-15 in 2002 was sent for final disposal in landfill dumps or incinerators instead of being recycled after use. This was the case even for batteries that had been collected separately at the end of their useful life.
The revised directive
The revised directive aims to avoid the final disposal of batteries in the environment by enhancing collection and recycling. It also contains restrictions on the use of some heavy metals. The key changes it introduces are:
The introduction of the recycling efficiency levels is a novelty in EU waste legislation. These efficiency targets will encourage innovation and the introduction of more effective processes and technologies. They form part of the Lead Market Initiative launched by the Commission at the start of this year (see IP/08/12).
The Commission has clarified that batteries lawfully placed on the Community market before today do not have to be withdrawn from sale or relabelled in line with the new requirements.
To date seven Member States have communicated to the Commission national legislation fully transposing the directive and a further four have partially transposed it. As guardian of the Treaty, the Commission will start immediately to assess whether these national laws correctly transpose the aims of the directive. The Commission will take any necessary infringement action against Member States which have not communicated their transposition measures if they do not remedy the situation rapidly.
DG Environment web page on batteries:
Sustainable consumption and production:
 Directive 2006/66/EC
 Directive 91/157/EEC