The EU Council adopted the agreed text of the Batteries Regulation (Regulation) on 10 July 2023. The Regulation significantly extends previous EU rules on battery recycling and waste disposal to cover all aspects of the battery lifecycle. This will include upstream environmental and social impacts from sourcing the raw materials needed for battery production, often from outside the EU.
The Regulation will also apply to almost all batteries, not just car batteries, including all waste portable batteries, industrial batteries, starting, lightning and ignition (SLI) batteries and batteries for things such as electric bikes, mopeds and e-scooters.
As we move towards the phase out of sales of new vehicles with internal combustion engines and increasingly towards electric vehicles as a means to decarbonise the economy, the sustainability of the vehicle battery supply chain has come under scrutiny. At the same time, the ability to recycle critical minerals in batteries and consequently to decrease reliance on supplies from third party countries is also a concern. The Batteries Regulation aims to address each of these aspects.
Once in force, the Regulation will include tighter recycling targets for waste batteries than previously. But the new rules go far beyond recycling targets. They introduce, for example:
- A requirement before placing batteries on the EU market to conduct due diligence on associated environmental and social impacts in the supply chain with some exemptions for smaller operators. This applies to companies with net turnover of at least EUR 40 million in the preceding financial year, or those that are part of a group whose consolidated turnover exceeds the that amount.
- Performance, durability and safety criteria, as well as restrictions on the use in manufacture of hazardous substances like mercury, cadmium and lead.
- The need for portable batteries incorporated into appliances to be removable and replaceable by the end-user by 2027.
- Mandatory information and labelling requirements on carbon footprint, battery components and recycled content. One novel feature is the introduction of an electronic “battery passport” and QR code. The labelling requirements will apply from 2026 and the QR code by 2027, giving manufacturers a window of time to prepare.
The next step for the Regulation is its publication in the Official Journal, following which it will come into force after 20 days. We may therefore expect it to go live towards the end of the 2023 summer holidays.
The Regulation adds to the swathe of recent EU environmental legislation focusing on due diligence and sustainability in the supply chain, with which manufacturers and importers will be grappling over coming months. The flow of new environmental legislation coming out of the EU is expected to slow as we approach EU elections. A 'breather' would certainly be good to allow companies to digest what has already landed.
See here for the EU press release with further details.