EU to introduce new laws around battery recycling

The EU has announced new legislation surrounding the collection, recycling and reuse of batteries following a provisional political agreement between the European Parliament and the Council reached last week (8 December). The legislation – known as ‘Batteries Regulation’ – will need to be formally adopted before it comes into effect.

Pile of portable batteriesIt builds on the European Commission’s proposal from December 2020 to improve the social, economic and environmental issues associated with all types of batteries.

Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, said the new legislation would ‘support scaling up battery use and production’ and ‘ensure it is done in a safe, circular and health way’.

The framework will start to come into effect from 2024 onwards, with new rules around carbon footprint, recycled content, and durability being introduced gradually. In mid-2025 a ‘more comprehensive’ regulatory framework on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) will come into force.

The 2025 guidelines will include the gradual introduction of higher collection targets. For portable batteries, this includes a collection target of 63 per cent in 2027, which will be increased to 73 per cent in 2030. The current collection target is 45 per cent. Batteries from light means of transport will have a target of 52 per cent in 2028, increasing to 61 per cent in 2031. Batteries from light means of transport were excluded from the original collection targets set in 2006.

All collected batteries will be recycled to recover materials such as copper, cobalt, lithium, nickel and lead. Material recovery targets for lithium will be 50 per cent by 2027, increasing to 80 per cent by 2031.

Companies operating within the EU internal market will be mandated to demonstrate both socially and environmentally responsible sourcing of materials.

If the legislation is formally adopted, secondary legislation with detailed laws to support the transition will need to be formally adopted from 2024 to 2028. The formal adoption of EU law usually takes several weeks and is to be completed by a yet-to-be-agreed-upon date. Following this, the legislation is published in the Official Journal and brought into effect 20 days later.

Both pieces of legislation expand on the 2006 Batteries Directive – the first piece of EU legislation to set out rules and targets for the recycling of batteries. In December 2020, the EU agreed to revise the Directive. These revisions take into account the rapidly increasing demand for batteries, which is set to increase a further 14-fold by 2030. It is predicted that the EU will account for 17 per cent of that demand, mostly through electric transport.

Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight, said: “All industrial players in Europe will now have a clear, predictable legal environment that supports them in innovating and preparing for the expected surge in e-mobility in coming years. This is yet another milestone, as our battery industry is of strategic importance to Europe’s global competitiveness.”

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, added: “Electric mobility is a new and coveted market. Global competition is fierce and demand for batteries has increased sharply.

“We want to ensure that we are not a mere subcontractor depending on others, and that clean mobility leads to jobs in Europe. This is even more vital since electric vehicles are less complex and labour-intensive to produce than combustion engines.

“We are mobilising substantial public and private investments in the battery value chain, and with the new Regulation agreed [last week] we will ensure that batteries placed in the EU market – even if produced in a third country – are sustainable and safe throughout their entire life cycle. Because batteries are at the heart of Europe’s competitiveness and resilience.”