During the debate on Wednesday, MEPs underlined the crucial role that batteries have in the transition to a circular and climate-neutral economy and for the EU’s competitiveness and strategic autonomy. The draft legislation was adopted on Thursday with 584 votes in favour, 67 against and 40 abstentions.
MEPs are in favour of overhauling the current legislation to take into account technological developments.
They propose stronger requirements on sustainability, performance and labelling, including the introduction of a new category of “batteries for ‘light means of transport’ (LMT)”, such as electric scooters and bikes, and rules on a carbon footprint declaration and label. By 2024, portable batteries in appliances, such as smartphones, and batteries for LMT must be designed so that consumers and independent operators can easily and safely remove them themselves, MEPs say.
According to the adopted position, industry should ensure that the battery value chain complies fully with human rights and due diligence obligations, thus addressing risks around the sourcing, processing and trading of raw materials, which are often concentrated in one or a few countries.
The report also sets minimum levels of recovered cobalt, lead, lithium and nickel from waste for reuse in new batteries and more stringent collection targets for portable batteries.
More details on specific requirements can be found here.
Rapporteur Simona Bonafè (S&D, IT) said: “For the first time in European legislation, the Battery Regulation lays down a holistic set of rules to govern an entire product life cycle, from the design phase to end-of-life. This creates a new approach to boost the circularity of batteries and introduces new sustainability standards that should become a benchmark for the entire global battery market. Batteries are a key technology for fostering sustainable mobility and for storing renewable energy. To achieve the objectives of the Green Deal and to attract investment, co-legislators need to swiftly adopt clear and ambitious rules and timelines.”
In December 2020, the Commission presented a proposal for a regulation on batteries and waste batteries. The proposal aims to strengthen the functioning of the internal market, promoting a circular economy and reducing the environmental and social impact throughout all stages of the battery life cycle. The initiative is closely linked to the European Green Deal, the Circular Economy Action Plan and the New Industrial Strategy.
At least 30 million zero-emission electric vehicles are forecast to be on EU roads by 2030. While electric cars are expected to significantly decrease greenhouse gas emissions, they have an environmentally damaging downside: their batteries.
The European Parliament is working on an update of the EU’s battery directive to ensure that batteries can be repurposed, remanufactured or recycled at the end of their life.
The report adopted by the Parliament’s environment committee on 10 February aims to govern the entire product life cycle, from design to consumption and all the way to recycling into new products. The proposal is linked to the EU’s circular economy action plan and the EU’s industrial strategy.
How are batteries classified?
MEPs called for the introduction of a new category of batteries for “light means of transport”, such as e-bikes or e-scooters, due to their growing use and technical developments. The new category comes alongside the existing portable, automotive and industrial battery classes.
Batteries: a strategic market for the EU
Global demand for batteries is set to increase 14 fold by 2030 and the EU could account for 17% of that demand. This is mainly driven by the rise of the digital economy, renewable energy and low carbon mobility. The increase of electric vehicles using batteries will make this market a strategic one at the global level.
Limiting batteries’ carbon footprint
Batteries will have to carry a label, which reflects their carbon footprint so that their environmental impact is more transparent. In addition, the environment committee wants it to cover the entire life of the battery. It also wants to guarantee that new batteries will contain minimum levels of recycled cobalt, lead, lithium and nickel.
Increasing batteries recycling
In 2019, 51% of portable batteries sold in the EU were collected for recycling. There are specific battery recycling processes for each type of battery due to the different metals and compounds used to manufacture them.
The report calls for more stringent collection targets for portable batteries (70% by 2025, compared to the European Commission’s original proposal of 65%; and 80% by 2030 instead of 70%); and for light means of transport batteries (75% by 2025 and 85% by 2030). In addition, all waste from automotive, industrial and electric vehicle batteries should be collected.
Addressing battery raw material issues
Battery manufacturing is largely dependent on critical raw material imports, notably cobalt, lithium, nickel and manganese, which have a significant impact on the environment and society.
In order to tackle human right abuses and ensure batteries are more ethically sourced, MEPs back the introduction of a due diligence obligation on battery manufacturers. They will have to comply with requirements addressing risks around the sourcing, processing and trading of raw materials, chemicals and secondary raw materials.
Parliament is expected to back the proposed measures during the plenary session in March, after which it will begin negotiations with EU governments.
Read more about the circular economy
- Circular economy: definition, importance and benefits
- Waste management in the EU: infographic with facts and figures
- E-waste in the EU: facts and figures (infographic)
- The impact of textile production and waste on the environment (infographic)
- How to promote sustainable consumption
- Ecodesign directive: from energy efficiency to recycling