Federal Council: Batteries must be exchangeable in electrical appliances

“The completely undesirable development of permanently installed batteries in more and more products, especially smartphones and notebooks, must be stopped urgently from the perspective of the circular economy.” The Federal Council expressed its opinion on Friday in its statement on the government draft for the reform of the Electrical Equipment Act.

In the case of cell phones in particular, the federal chamber wants to know that the user can replace the battery himself and use the cell phone for longer. “The battery is often the most susceptible component on the smartphone”, she justifies her initiative. This technical defect leads to the fact that, due to the decreasing capacity of the electricity storage system or a defect, entire devices are disposed of. Batteries should therefore be able to be delivered as spare parts for around five years after purchase within a certain period of around fourteen days.

According to the will of the Federal Council, every manufacturer should also provide information about the type and chemical system, safe removal and a potential replacement of this technical unit for power supply in the case of electrical and electronic devices “that contain a battery”. This has to apply regardless of whether the actual change is possible by the user himself or only by specialist staff.

With the project, the federal government wants to ensure that citizens can also hand in old electrical appliances such as razors or cell phones in discount stores and supermarkets and send them back to online suppliers. In online trading, according to the Federal Council, a take-back obligation should apply from a turnover of 12 million euros and a number of 50 employees. So far, the differentiation has been made here according to the storage and shipping size of the company, but this is difficult to check. The retail trade should also be able to set up collective take-back systems via cooperation models.

The federal states also lack financial incentives in the government draft, for example through a bonus-malus system for manufacturers to produce durable, repairable, reusable, recyclable and low-emission products. They want to prevent unauthorized third parties from illegally collecting old electrical appliances in front of recycling yards or at other locations. Advertising for such activities should be punishable.

A “willingness to dispose of the owner” is “not a compelling reason” for the Federal Council to “turn an apparatus into waste”. Therefore, the “collection as used equipment by the public waste disposal authority” is of particular importance. Undamaged devices should be stored separately “to enable reuse”. For passing on to end customers, both “self-marketing” by the recycling yards and orders to third parties could be considered. Throughout Germany there are a large number of non-profit organizations that could make an important contribution to waste avoidance through appropriate cooperation with the waste disposal authorities.

Screen devices should no longer be allowed to be disposed of in large containers, the committee demands. They often break in them, and the mercury they contain is then released. As far as technically and organizationally possible, the disposal company or a third party commissioned by it may also remove electronic components such as lights, lamps, cables and loudspeakers from furniture at the point of collection.

The Federal Environment Ministry want to oblige the federal states to annually determine the “mass proportion of devices and components brought into reuse by public waste disposal companies” as well as appropriate preparations and to announce the results. This is important in order to be able to check the effectiveness of the measures provided for in this law to prevent electronic waste. According to EU guidelines, Germany has been collecting 65 percent of old devices in this area since 2019. In 2018, however, the share was only 43.1 percent.


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