Legislative update autumn 2014

UK Consultation: Implementation of the EU Batteries Directive 2013

On 6 August 2014, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) launched a consultation on the implementation of the Batteries Directive 2013. The directive makes key changes to the Batteries Directive 2006, including changes to:

  • extend the ban on batteries containing more than 0.002 per cent of cadmium to include portable batteries for cordless power tools. This ban will apply from 1 January 2017; and
  • prohibit the marketing of button cells containing more than two per cent of mercury. This ban will apply from 1 October 2015. 

However, batteries placed on the market for the first time prior to the date of the ban can still be sold until stock runs out. 

Currently, the exemptions on the above products mean that the adverse health effects are not taken into account by entities producing and selling cadmium and mercury batteries. It is hoped that the results of this consultation will encourage the development of a battery market that does not rely on technologies that use high quantities of hazardous substances. This will benefit waste battery disposal facilities from reduced toxic waste and processing costs associated with the disposal of cadmium portable batteries.

The consultation seeks responses as to whether the proposed changes are in line with the guidance provided in the directive, and also whether the cost estimates and timelines stated are appropriate to allow sufficient time for affected businesses to comply. A government response is expected within three months of the closing date of the consultation of 5 November 2014.

This consultation is relevant to facilities that treat or export waste batteries, including products that contain waste batteries. Affected facilities will have an adjustment period until the date of the ban. 

European Commission Consultation: Ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

The European Commission launched a consultation in August on the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which was signed in October 2013. This forms part of EU’s wider Mercury Strategy, which contains a number of measures to reduce emissions, cut supply and demand and protect against exposure. The convention, when ratified, will ban or control the use of mercury in a range of products and processes. 

The convention bans the import and export of certain mercury-containing products including:

This article was taken from Issue 78

  • batteries, except for button cell batteries used in implantable medical devices;
  • switches and relays;
  • certain types of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) of 30 watts or less if they contain more than five milligrammes of mercury;
  • cold cathode fluorescent lamps and external electrode fluorescent lamps (energy-saving light bulbs) that contain mercury;
  • soaps and cosmetics containing more than one part per million of mercury; and
  • certain kinds of non-electronic medical devices, such as thermometers and blood pressure devices.

There are exceptions for some large measuring devices where currently there are no mercury-free alternatives, and certain other applications, such as:

  • vaccines where mercury is used as a preservative;
  • products used in religious or traditional activities; and
  • dental fillings using mercury amalgam. These are neither banned nor exempt, but the parties have agreed to phase-down their use.

The EU already has stringent controls on mercury, but the consultation aims to provide clarity on whether further regulation will be required and how to go about implementing the convention. 

It will be important for suppliers and end users of mercury-containing products to be aware of the impending changes and have processes in place to change working practices to comply with the convention requirements.  

Sam Sandilands is part of Burges Salmon’s Energy and Environment unit, and can be reached on [email protected]