A new European rule that sets aggressive recycling requirements for batteries, including those for electric vehicles, was passed overwhelmingly last week by the European Parliament.
The regulation is part of the European Union’s big push to embrace circular economy principles in its legislation. It still needs the formal blessing of the European Council but will affect pretty much any battery capacity you can name — ranging from portables to many formats found in vehicles, including those for starters, for electric scooters and bikes, EVs and rechargeable industrial batteries that provide more than 2 kilowatt-hours of power.
The rules include a labeling mandate and will eventually require battery makers to meet certain levels of recycled content for critical minerals found in batteries, such as cobalt, lithium and nickel.
"Our overall aim is to build a stronger recycling industry, particularly for lithium, and a competitive industrial sector as a whole, which is crucial in the coming decades for our continent’s energy transition and strategic autonomy," said Achille Variati, one member of Parliament responsible for shepherding the legislation when it gained momentum in December. "These measures could become a benchmark for the entire global battery market."
Here are some salient details that will affect businesses and make batteries or that include them in their products (yes, you):
- There are design implications. Within 3½ years of formal adoption, appliance makers must ensure batteries are easy for consumers to remove and replace.
- Claims will be scrutinized. Batteries will eventually need to include labels with data that goes beyond capacity or performance to disclose criteria such as chemical composition and carbon footprints. The bigger formats must carry a "digital product passport" that allows consumers and others to trace details about environmental data at every phase of the battery’s lifetime, from raw materials to product to recycling.
- Target collection rates are ambitious. The goals for battery collection will increase between 2023 and 2031; by 2030, for example, EU regulators seek a collection rate of 73 percent for portable batteries compared with 45 percent this year. For batteries used in scooters, the aim is 61 percent by 2031.
- Get ready for urban mining. By 2027, Europe hopes to collect at least 50 percent of the lithium in batteries sold on the continent, rising to 80 percent by 2031. The goals for cobalt, copper, lead and nickel are 90 percent and 95 percent in those same time frames. Hello, e-waste recycling businesses.
- There are minimum expectations for recycled content. Similarly, the requirements for including materials mined out of electronic waste in new batteries will increase over time. For example, battery makers will need to derive 16 percent of cobalt they put in their products from recycled sources by the 2031 timeframe.
- Did I mention it’s free? Consumers won’t be required to pay for collection of industrial or EV batteries, which means businesses will foot the bill.
Here’s the complete text for the legislation.