EU Directive Imposes Recycling, Collection Rules on Battery Makers

EU Directive Imposes Recycling, Collection Rules on Battery Makers

New European Union rules governing the design and disposal of batteries came into effect last week, heralding restrictions on the toxic contents of batteries sold in the region.

Directive 2006/66/EC regulates the amount of mercury in batteries to 0.0005 percent by weight, and also prohibits the sale of portable batteries with more than 0.002 percent of cadmium by weight.

The law, which was passed two years ago, had a September 26 deadline for adoption by member states.

Experts predicted that the legislation was most likely to impact vendors of nickel cadmium (NiCad) batteries and could lead to increased demand for newer lithium-ion based battery technologies.

"This is going to help lithium-ion a lot, not hurt it. Most of the NiCad will disappear and move to lithium-ion, which is a much greener chemistry. Lithium-ion has no mercury, no lead and no cadmium," said a senior executive at one manufacturer, who did not want to be named.

However, lithium-ion will be affected by another stipulation of the directive, which calls for the collection of used portable batteries for disposal, financed by manufacturers.

The UK will impose a 25 percent collection requirement on portable batteries by 2012, rising to 45 percent by 2016.

Meanwhile, industrial and automotive batteries are prohibited from disposal in landfill or incineration, effectively imposing a 100 percent collection rate.

DEFRA (the UK Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) hopes that the creation of a closed-loop collection system will enable the UK to meet 2011 recycling targets of 75 percent of NiCad batteries by weight, 65 percent of lead acid batteries by weight, and 50 percent of all other batteries, including lithium-ion.