On the 10th July 2023 The European Council adopted a new regulation that strengthens sustainability rules for batteries and waste batteries. The regulation will regulate the entire life cycle of batteries – from production to reuse and recycling – and ensure that they are safe, sustainable and competitive.
Batteries are key to the decarbonisation process and the EU's shift towards zero-emission modes of transport. At the same time end-of-life batteries contain many valuable resources and we must be able to reuse those critical raw materials instead of relying on third countries for supplies. The new rules will promote the competitiveness of European industry and ensure new batteries are sustainable and contribute to the green transition.
The regulation of the European Parliament and the Council 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).
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 regulation 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 regulation sets a target for lithium recovery from waste batteries of 50% by the end of 2027 and 80% by the end of 2031, which can be amended through delegated acts depending on market and technological developments and the availability of lithium.
The regulation 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. Batteries will have to hold a recycled content documentation.
The recycling efficiency target for nickel-cadmium batteries is set at 80% by the end of 2025 and 50% by the end 2025 for other waste batteries.
The regulation provides that by 2027 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. This is an important provision for consumers. Light means of transport batteries will need to 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 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. In order to give member states and economic actors on the market enough time to prepare, labelling requirements will apply by 2026 and the QR code by 2027.
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 regulation sets tight due diligence rules for operators who must verify the source of raw materials used for batteries placed on the market. The regulation provides for an exemption for SMEs from the due diligence rules.
The vote by the Council today closes the adoption procedure. The regulation will now be signed by the Council and the European Parliament. It will then be published in the EU’s Official Journal and enter into force 20 days after.
The regulation on batteries aims to create a circular economy for the batteries sector by targeting all stages of the life cycle of batteries, from design to waste treatment. This initiative is of major importance, particularly in view of the massive development of electric mobility. Demand for batteries is expected to grow by more than ten-fold by 2030.
The new regulation will replace the current batteries directive of 2006 and complete the existing legislation, particularly in terms of waste management.
The European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation on batteries on 10 December 2020. The Council adopted a general approach on 17 March 2022. The European Parliament adopted its negotiating position in the plenary on 10 March 2022. Following interinstitutional negotiations, a provisional agreement was reached between the Council presidency and European Parliament negotiators. The outcome of the agreement was adopted in plenary by the European Parliament on 14 June 2023.