The draft legislation on battery regulation says electronic waste management is critical to a sustainable, circular economy in the EU
As the world looks to make a clean energy transition – especially in the wake of violence compromising the use of Russian resources – the EU points out that lithium battery use is set to sky-rocket.
Successful battery regulation is linked to the realisation of the EU Green Deal, the Circular Economy Action Plan and the New Industrial Strategy.
The legislation passed on Thursday (10 March) with 584 votes, with 67 against and 40 abstentions.
The draft proposal was first agreed in The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), on 10 February, 2022. The grounding idea at the heart of this new push is that rules will govern the entire battery product life cycle, enabling a more climate-friendly waste management process.
Now, there is a unanimous consensus in European Parliament that entire life cycle management will enable the realisation of the EU Green Deal.
World to use 700 times more lithium batteries between 2020 and 2040
The Rapporteur on the EU Circular Economy Package, Simona Bonafè, highlighted during the debate that there would be 700 times more lithium batteries waiting to be recycled between 2020 and 2040.
She further drew attention to the creation of an efficient market for raw, secondary materials, which could enable more sustainable lithium battery production procedures across the bloc.
The legislation on battery regulation also says that there should be stronger requirements on sustainability, performance and labelling. This would include the introduction of a new category of “batteries for ‘light means of transport’ (LMT)” – such as electric scooters and bikes, and rules on a carbon footprint declaration and label.
It is expected that by 2024, portable batteries found in smartphones will be designed to be easily removed. MEPS say would allow consumers and supply chains to dispose of them in a more climate-friendly way, rather than sending an entire iPhone to a landfill site.
Human rights should be preserved in lithium-extraction supply chains
The industry behind batteries should also comply fully with human rights obligations, especially when it comes to the sourcing, processing and trading of raw materials – concentrated in a handful of countries. The MEPS say that the legislation on battery regulation would compel supply chains and Governments to carry out their due diligence before engaging.
For instance, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia – three countries in South America that are together known as the ‘Lithium Triangle’ – hold 75% of global lithium supply in their lands. The extraction process takes between 12 to 18 months, but brings a lot of extensive mining work with it.
There is always a risk that labour exploitation is happening in a region with such high-value exports, especially when that same export is used across the globe in every electronic device.
Rapporteur Simona Bonafè further said: “Maximum carbon footprint, minimum content of recycled material, performance standards, durability and removability are the main sustainability requirements, introduced for the first time for batteries, which must aim to become a benchmark for the entire global market and must be applied to any type of battery sold on the European market, including those imported from non-EU countries.”