Sustainable batteries: EU Parliament wants cellphones to be glued on
If the battery no longer works, many mobile phones, computers, household robots or headphones end up in the trash. The European Parliament now wants to change that – and not only protect the environment.
Batteries and rechargeable batteries are playing an increasingly important role in many products, from laptops to vacuum cleaner robots and electric vehicles to industrial batteries.
The market is huge.
Estimates assume a volume of 250 billion euros for the year 2025.
At the same time, the proportion of batteries that are recycled at the end of their service life remains relatively low.
This is a problem for the environment, but also for the EU’s supply of raw materials and thus independence from unsafe suppliers, as the Ukraine war shows.
“Putin’s attack on Ukraine is challenging Europe’s supply of raw materials, so we need substitution and markets for recycled critical raw materials all the more urgently,” says MEP Henrike Hahn (Greens).
The European Parliament therefore wants to use new EU rules to ensure that batteries are produced more sustainably and that a higher proportion are recycled.
In Strasbourg, the MEPs now voted in favor of a corresponding proposal from the EU Commission at the end of 2020 and tightened it up on some points.
For example, Parliament wants to increase the proportion of recycled raw materials such as cobalt, lithium, nickel or lead in batteries.
They are expected to achieve a recycling rate of 90 percent by 2026.
A European deposit system for batteries and rechargeable batteries should make a contribution to this.
“We are therefore calling on the Commission to quickly submit analyzes and proposals here,” says CDU MP Hildegard Bentele.
Parliament gives the Commission until 2025 to do this.
“Durable and repairable devices”
In order to prevent the entire product from having to be thrown away when batteries reach the end of their service life, Parliament wants to ban the permanent installation or gluing of batteries in telephones, computers, headphones, household robots, electric toothbrushes, but also e-bikes or scooters.
Users should be able to exchange them with commercially available tools.
The manufacturer must ensure that there are replacement batteries available for a product’s expected lifetime.
In addition, independent repair shops should be allowed to carry out the exchange if a user does not trust himself.
Industry, on the other hand, is up in arms.
She argues that this jeopardizes the durability and safety of the batteries.
Manufacturers must inform consumers about the energy and performance capabilities of batteries and provide information about shelf life and charging times.
This should encourage users to buy high-quality, long-lasting batteries.
Parliament argues that this reduces the emissions generated during the production of the batteries.
In addition, manufacturers of car and other transport batteries as well as industrial batteries must calculate and report the carbon footprint over the entire product cycle.
Consumers should be able to read this via a QR code.
Electric scooter manufacturer Gogoro is famous for its battery-swapping network of GoStations that extensively covers its native Taiwan. The system has become so popular that it will soon eclipse the number of gas stations on the island nation.
Reducing the use of scarce metals — and recycling them — will be key to the world’s transition to electric vehicles.
By the end of 2025, the Commission is to examine whether this can be extended to all batteries.
“Consumers finally have the choice to opt for clean, durable and repairable devices,” said Green MEP Anna Cavazzini.
From 2027 onwards, an upper limit for the CO2 footprint will apply, which effectively excludes the production of batteries with fossil fuels.
The MEPs want to ensure that the new gigafactories that are currently being built in the EU for battery production are operated with 100 percent green electricity.
The European Parliament obliges manufacturers to control their supply chains in order to prevent violations of human rights and environmental protection.
This aims, for example, that the mining of lithium in Chile, Bolivia and Argentina leads to water shortages.
In a way, Parliament is anticipating the supply chain law recently presented by the European Commission.
The new rules for batteries are scheduled to come into force on January 1, 2023. First, however, the Council of Ministers, the body of the member states, must determine its position.
The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers must then agree on a common line so that the rules can come into force.
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