New law on more sustainable, circular and safe batteries enters into force

A new Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on batteries and battery waste enters into force on 17 August. It will ensure that new batteries are sustainable and contribute to the green transformation. The circular economy is promoted by regulating the entire life cycle of batteries, from creation to waste treatment, and by increasing producer responsibility.

"The new regulation will improve the functioning of the internal market for batteries and ensure fairer competition by setting safety, sustainability, and labeling requirements through performance, durability, and safety criteria, stricter restrictions on hazardous substances, and compulsory information on the carbon performance of batteries," said Raminta Radavičienė, Vice-Minister for the Environment.

The Waste Batteries Regulation sets more ambitious targets for waste collection, recycling efficiency, and material recovery, as well as stricter sustainability and labeling requirements. The Regulation will apply to all batteries: all types of portable batteries, batteries for electric vehicles, industrial batteries, automotive batteries (accumulators), as well as batteries for electric bicycles, electric mopeds, and electric scooters.

This initiative is very important considering the significant expansion of electric vehicle production. There will be more opportunities to develop the conversion of waste electric vehicle batteries into energy storage systems.

An important message for consumers: portable batteries in devices will be easier to replace. This and other goals will be achieved gradually, but some of the changes will need to be implemented over the next two years.

"The Regulation stipulates that from 2027, portable batteries in devices such as mobile phones should be designed so that they can be removed and replaced by the end-user, allowing enough time for businesses to adapt their product models to this requirement. Batteries for light vehicles will have to be replaced by independent specialists," says Raminta Radavičienė.

The first challenge is to collect 63% of waste portable batteries by 31 December 2027 and 73% by 31 December 2030. For example, in 2021, almost 12,500 tons of waste batteries and accumulators were collected, and almost 11,600 tons were recycled.

Sorting is a key part of overcoming this challenge. It is important to properly dispose of waste batteries and accumulators because when they are placed in household waste containers with other waste, they decompose and emit substances that can alter the chemical composition of the soil, harm plant leaves, and damage animal skin. Heavy metals can leach from the environment into plants, get washed into water bodies, and then enter the bodies of animals and humans. Once in the human body, heavy metals can damage DNA and cells.

There are around 9,000 drop-off points in Lithuania where people can take their used portable batteries and accumulators. Most of the collection takes place in retail outlets, where special containers for collecting batteries are located. Distributors of portable batteries and accumulators are obliged to accept old batteries and accumulators from residents free of charge, without requiring them to purchase new ones.

Residents can also take used batteries and accumulators to waste collection sites set up by municipalities or hand them over to waste handlers or leave them in offices, petrol stations, educational establishments, and organizations where special containers for the collection of this waste are provided.

The Regulation also sets a specific collection target for waste batteries from small vehicles: 51% by 31 December 2028 at the latest and 61% three years later, on 31 December 2031.

By 31 December 2027, 50% of batteries will have to recover lithium, and 80% by 31 December 2030.

Starting from 18 August 2031, the Regulation sets mandatory minimum recycling levels for industrial batteries, automotive batteries (accumulators), and batteries for electric vehicles. They will have to contain 16% recycled cobalt, 85% recycled lead, 6% recycled lithium, and the same amount of recycled nickel.

By 31 December 2025, 80% of waste nickel-cadmium batteries will have to be recycled, along with 50% of other waste batteries.

Another important change is the introduction of labeling and information requirements on the constituent elements and recycled content of batteries, as well as the introduction of a QR code and a battery passport containing information about the battery model. The labeling requirements will start three years later, in 2026, and the QR code will be introduced in 2027.

To reduce the environmental impact throughout the life cycle of batteries, strict due diligence rules are introduced for economic operators to verify the source of raw materials used for batteries placed on the market. Small and medium-sized companies will be exempted from the due diligence rules.

The Regulation is binding and directly applicable in all Member States and does not need to be transposed into national law.