May 3, 2006

EU agrees on rules for recycling of batteries

BRUSSELS -- Used batteries in the European Union will have to be collected and recycled under rules agreed by EU lawmakers and member states this week that aim to protect people and the environment from the effects of dangerous metals.

The European Commission tabled the rules in 2003 to boost battery recycling rates and clamp down on using cadmium and mercury in batteries to stop the toxic metals from seeping into water supplies and polluting the atmosphere.

Under the agreement announced on Wednesday, EU states must recycle a quarter of all portable batteries sold in a given year from 2012 or within six years of the new rules coming into force. That collection target rises to 45 percent in 2016.

A portable battery is defined as weighing less than 1 kg (2.2 lb).

From 2009, batteries and accumulators will also have to be labeled to show how long they will last.

"Parliament thought the consumer should be able to choose higher-performance and long-life batteries," Dutch EU parliament member Johannes Blokland, who steered the bill through the assembly, said in a statement.

"Cheap batteries are not necessarily the best choice for the environment if they have a shorter life."

The rules ban the sale of batteries containing more than 0.0005 percent of mercury, and portable batteries with more than 0.002 percent of cadmium, except in alarm systems, medical equipment and cordless power tools.

"The EU gives high priority to making sure that batteries and accumulators no longer cause health and environmental problems due to the heavy metals they contain," Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement, urging states to start implementing the rules.

"The faster we start to collect and recycle batteries, the better for the environment."

The agreement allows for some exemptions to the rules for small producers.