Electronic waste: EU Commission is pushing for replaceable batteries


New turning point in the dispute between the Federal Council and the Federal Government over replaceable batteries. The lead Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) now recognizes that specifications for the easy replacement of batteries in cell phones and laptops, for example, could be made within the framework of the European Ecodesign Directive.

A spokesman for the department told heise online that “the European battery regulation will also be available” in the future. The Federal Council recently urged corrections to the government draft to reform the Electrical Equipment Act. “From the point of view of the circular economy, the completely undesirable development of permanently installed batteries in more and more products, especially smartphones and notebooks, must be stopped urgently,” demanded the regional chamber. In the case of cell phones in particular, she wanted to know that the user could replace the battery himself and use the cell phone for longer.

In its counter-statement to the Federal Council’s opinion, the Federal Government supported “the intention of the application”, but nevertheless rejected the application. For reasons of internal market law, further requirements for the product design of electronic devices are only possible and sensible throughout the EU, explained the executive body and referred to the mandatory requirements of the Ecodesign Directive. The federal government had apparently lost sight of the Draft battery ordinancethe EU Commission submitted in December. In Article 11 it says: Built-in batteries must be easily removable and replaceable by the end user or by independent operators during the life of the device.

If a battery lasts a very long time, it should be able to be recycled separately if a cell phone fails, for example. A battery is easily replaceable if it can be replaced with a similar one after it has been removed from a device without affecting the function or performance of the device, explains the Brussels government institution. It defines well-known device batteries as a closed unit that weighs less than five kilograms and is not designed for industrial purposes. Batteries for electric vehicles and conventional car batteries are excluded.

The BMU welcomed this initiative when asked. The proposed sustainability criteria included “requirements for performance and durability or for the easy interchangeability of batteries”, reported the spokesman for Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD). “In terms of extending the service life, the service life of an integrated battery should not determine the service life of devices.” The current draft regulation expresses this.

After the batteries have been used for as long as possible, they would have to be properly disposed of and high-quality recycled, the department praised the plan from Brussels. For example, through the targets contained in the draft for the collection, recycling and future use of secondary raw materials, “important impulses are set here”. The planned product-related requirements at EU level also prevent the build-up of market access barriers, as is already the case with the Ecodesign Directive. The government focused on this aspect in its announcement to the Federal Council.

The Ministry of the Environment also praises the Commission’s proposal in other respects, as it is pursuing “a comprehensive, life-cycle-oriented approach” and careful use of natural resources. For the first time, there is an opportunity to think about and shape the subject of batteries in a new production process, from manufacture to trade, use, collection and treatment to recycling. The planned “requirements for corporate due diligence” are important. The BMU describes the proposed introduction of a CO2 footprint and the incorporation of further sustainability criteria as essential “in order to reduce the negative effects along the entire value chain”.