A minimum of 45% of all used batteries should be collected after ten years, the European Parliament has agreed in second reading of the batteries directive. Limited bans on heavy metals cadmium and mercury were decided.

The draft batteries directive was tabled by the Commission in 2003. It proposes to establish minimum levels of collection and recycling targets for spent batteries and places the responsibility on producers to finance the costs of collection, treatment and recycling.

At present, collection rates vary widely across the EU, ranging from 16% in France to 59% in Belgium. The proposal seeks to harmonise this in order to prevent batteries from ending up in incinerators or landfills where the heavy metals they contain (lead, cadmium, mercury) contaminate the environment.

The European Parliament on 13 December voted for lower collection targets for spent batteries, bringing them down from 60% to 45% over a ten-year period. MEPs seem to have followed advice from leading centre-right EPP-ED group members who called for targets to be set at a more realistic level. "Let us be frank about this. Austria has achieved 40% collection after 14 years. The report now calls for higher EU targets: 40% after 6 years and 60 % after 10 years. These targets are unrealistic," Caroline Jackson MEP (EPP-ED, UK) told her colleagues in Plenary. Under the text voted on by Parliament, collection of spent batteries and accumulators are set at 25% 6 years after the directive comes into force and 45% after 10 years. Limited bans on heavy metals which contaminate the environment when thrown in landfills were also agreed: 0,0005% of mercury by weight for all batteries 0,002% of cadmium by weight for portable batteries with the following exceptions: emergency and alarm systems, medical equipment, cordless power tools In line with the Commission's initial proposal, MEPs confirmed that the responsibility for financing the collection, treatment and recycling of spent batteries should lie with producers. The responsibility should also cover waste from batteries in use before the new directive comes into force, MEPs said. Member states have already agreed to the principle in their common position adopted in July. The following targets for recycling heavy metals were agreed: 65% by average weight for lead-acid batteries (with closed loop for all lead contained) 75% by average weight for nickel-cadmium (with closed loop for all the cadmium contained) 55% by average weight for other waste batteries (up from 50% in the Council's common position in July this year) Positions: The Commission is satisfied with the Parliament's second reading, saying it now agrees with member states on some key issues: the dual legal basis (Art. 95 [internal market] and 175 [environment] of the EC Treaty), the level of collection targets, and a restriction on the use of cadmium in portable batteries, with a number of exemptions for certain applications. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said he believed Parliament and Council "can now start moving towards agreement in this file. I look forward to an early conclusion of the co-decision process", he said. "The actual responsibility for collecting the batteries will rest with battery producers themselves and the UK is currently unprepared for these new targets as overall our collection rate is below five percent. We will need to ensure that battery producers put systems in place so that batteries can be collected from consumers, and then recycled. This will take some time," said Caroline Jackson MEP (EPP-ED, UK). Portable batteries manufacturers represented by the association Recharge were relieved that collection targets were maintained at manageable levels. "The result of the Parliament's second reading vote was far from ideal for the battery industry," Recharge said. "However, the Parliament has taken a big step towards introducing a Battery Directive which will ensure a high level of environmental protection … whilst preserving a strong European battery industry," it added. Manufacturers of automotive and industrial batteries at Eurobat said the revised text is close to achieving a right balance. "It will be workable," Eurobat's EU affairs manager Pierre Conrath told EurActiv. According to the association, the spirit of the directive has now shifted from rules on waste management and market placement to preventing the use of heavy metals in batteries. But the industry's main concern, said Eurobat, is that further bans are being considered without scientific justification or backing from a risk assessment. Latest & next steps: 2006: second reading in forthcoming environment Council and possible final approval If not, a conciliation procedure will be launched between Parliament and Council to agree on a compromise text .


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