Western Europe

Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg

Legislation in Belgium and Luxembourg are very similar to the regulations of the EU directive. In the Netherlands, according to Articles 5, 6 and 7 of the decree IENM/BSK-2013/287023, producers of portable batteries are obliged to create an adequate number of accessible collection points - taking into account population density - where end-users can dispose of their batteries free of charge. These collection points are, amongst other locations, installed on the premises of battery distributors. Producers must ensure that the surrendered batteries are retrieved from the collection points and redirected for recycling. 

Municipalities are also obliged to collect batteries separately as part of small chemical waste. This is in addition to the collection structures of the producers and makes it more accessible for consumers to surrender batteries [1], [2]. All the batteries collected by these three countries are mainly recycled by Umicore, a Belgium-based company specialized in recycling. Umicore invests heavily in technology development and in the expansion of the battery recycling industry. In 2018-2019, the company signed partnerships with Audi, BMW, LG Chem and Northvolt to expand their business across Europe. Umicore’s metals recycling plant in Hoboken, Belgium is expanding its capacity from 350,000 to 500,000 tonnes per year to achieve their goal of developing a sustainable life cycle loop for batteries. [3]

 

France

In France, the national regulations are transposed directly from the EU 2006/66/EC Directive on Batteries to the French Environmental Code,  accompanied by three ministerial orders [2]. The Environment agency ADEME closely monitors the waste battery systems and treatment facilities. 

For portable batteries, producers must organise the collection and treatment of waste batteries without passing any additional cost to the customer, either by registering with a licensed body or setting-up a collection and treatment scheme which is approved by the government. As a result, the producers in France established two licensed bodies for portable batteries, COREPILE and SCRELEC. 

For automotive batteries, producers are required to organize and bear the costs of the collection and treatment of the waste at pick-up locations selected by the distributors or the local authorities. However, producers are allowed to make second-use of the batteries and many companies also collect used batteries due to the market value of lead and other metals. For industrial batteries, producers are required to establish “put in take-back” schemes for the resulting waste batteries and conduct further treatment. There is also the possibility for producers to enter into a contract with the user where the latter takes the responsibility for end-of-life battery management. 

The most important regulation obstacle for the Li-ion battery collection and recycling is the lack of specific definition regarding this specific type of battery chemistry. Li-ion batteries are labelled under ‘other’ battery types due to the market still being dominated by NiCd and lead-acid batteries; making it extremely tedious to decipher the recycling rates of Li-ion batteries [4]. 

 

United Kingdom and Ireland

In the United Kingdom, the manufacturer or importer to place batteries on the market, including those inside products, is responsible for compliance with national regulation on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. The only exception in the collection of WEEE is under the “distributor take-back” scheme, which is operated by Valpak Retail WEEE services. The scheme gives distributors an exemption from the in-store return requirement for a fee and covers all WEEE national obligations. After collection, batteries go to separation and then lithium-ion batteries go to the nearest recycling plant, in Belgium [2], [5]. 

Similarly, in The Republic of Ireland, waste batteries must be separately collected for recycling and recovery of resources. The producer is responsible for arranging and financing the collection facilities. Free returns are offered to both household and non-household end-users through a well-established network of retail outlets and civic amenity sites. In 2018, Ireland achieved a 48% waste portable battery collection rate, above the EU target of 45%. The collection included 856 tonnes of portable, 1,292 tonnes of industrial and 4,076 tonnes of automotive batteries (includes lead-acid) [6].

As of 2019, both the UK and the Republic of Ireland are lacking recycling facilities from their national battery value chain, with most of the companies at the end of life stage simply serving as battery collectors. Consequently all batteries are exported to mainland Europe for recycling. Nevertheless, Japanese car-maker Nissan announced a line of energy storage systems for households which use second life batteries that are no longer fit for EVs. The systems are expected to be manufactured at Nissan’s Sunderland production line in UK [7].

 

References:

[1] State Secretary of Infrastructure and the Environment, The Netherlands, “Regulation on waste electrical and electronic equipment,” IENM/BSK-2013/287023, Apr. 2012.

[2] European Comission, “Final Implementation Report for the Directive 2006/66/EC on Batteries and Accumulators.” 07-Oct-2015.

[3] “Umicore | Materials for a better life.” [Online]. Available: https://www.umicore.com/en/. [Accessed: 07-Nov-2019].

[4] European Commission, “Study in support of the preparation of the Implementation report on Directive 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators,” European Commission , Final Report, May 2018.

[5] Great Britain, The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2018. 2018.

[6] “WEEE Annual Environmental Report 2018,” The Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland, 2018.

[7] A. Vaughan, “Nissan launches British-made home battery to rival Tesla’s Powerwall,” the Guardian, 04-May-2017. [Online]. Available: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/may/04/nissan-launches-british-made-home-battery-to-rival-teslas-powerwall. [Accessed: 07-Nov-2019].

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