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What The Battery Act must do – ECOBAT Logistics’ position on the BMU Speaker’s Draft

ECOBAT Logistics, Europe’s leading waste battery collection company, welcomes the intention of The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) to change the current Battery Law due to competition, law constraints and the requirements from European Legislation. Below, we summarise what we consider to be the most important points from the initial BMU draft. The entire statement can be downloaded below.

Battery Law and the statutory obligations of manufacturers: The reason behind battery return systems

Collection points for portable batteries are available to all consumers to use, located, for example, in trade locations as well as at public waste disposal sites. They are operated by the manufacturer’s take-back systems. All manufacturers are obliged to either set up their own system or to participate in an existing system. The legislator is responsible for creating a protocol from which all of the manufacturer’s return systems can collect consumer batteries from across Germany by means of a “fair and level playing field”, without being exposed to bureaucratic hurdles.

Draft Battery Law: The intention and the reality of the proposed manufacturer’s take-back system

With regards to the EU circular economic plan, it is of great importance for the German and European industries to both collect and recycle used batteries for use as a secondary raw material source. If this was the case, the growing demand for raw materials across Europe would be sustainably managed and global competitiveness would be increased. The resulting economic growth and new jobs would highlight the positive effects of such measures.

In our view, the key requirements for the new battery law include:

  • Creating incentives for increasing collection rates
  • Strengthening the manufacturer’s take-back systems
  • Promoting environmentally responsible disposal
  • Increasing recycling efficiency
  • Reducing administrative burdens
  • Clarifying the definitions of the different battery types
  • It must also provide consumers with comprehensive information. ECOBAT Logistics is already providing this service. On the website, ECOBAT Logistics provides detailed but easily understandable covering; collection, transportation, handling and recycling of used batteries.

Our criticism of the intention to update The Battery Act: The hurdles for battery return systems will not be removed

The current draft law stipulates that take-back systems are obliged to publish the ownership / membership relationships, the contributions to the disposal costs and the procedures for selecting the disposal services – these are usually treated as intellectual property by companies.

  • In our opinion this is not compatible with competition law.
  • The publication of these factors would lead to an unnecessary expenditure of both time and money for the system’s mandatory declaration and to set up a return option for manufacturers. Another new requirement is for the manufacturers of vehicle and industrial batteries to submit a declaration regarding the establishment of a returns option for batteries as well as financial and organisational resources.
  • Currently, vehicle and industrial batteries that contain lead, are recorded, collected and recycled by distributors, treatment facilities, public waste disposal companies and waste battery disposal companies. It is therefore sufficient and indeed good practice that the manufacturers offer a free return option.

Inadequate definition of batteries: To increase the collection rates for other types of batteries, it is necessary to revise the definition for batteries

  • Clear regulation of the affiliation of the various return options is required. Both consumer and industrial batteries must be defined, considering the different potential risks involved with any collections. This is the only way to close the discussion on which batteries are part of any return system and may be used to achieve collection rates and to secure the financing.

Revise recycling efficiency regulations:

For a functioning circular economy, not only is the collection of batteries is important, but also the recovery, which is calculated as recycling efficiency. This indicates how much (%) of each battery can be recycled, i.e. returned to the economic cycle. There is a separate EU regulation for calculating the recycling efficiency for all batteries.

  • The definition of “recycling efficiency” proposed in The Battery Act is the minimum target for the recycling of used batteries. It points in the right direction.
  • In terms of a “fair and level playing field”, recycling efficiency should be set at the same level for all battery types.
  • Clear regulation of the affiliation of the various return options is required. Both consumer and industrial batteries must be defined, considering the different potential risks involved with any collections. This is the only way to close the discussion on which batteries are part of any return system and may be used to achieve collection rates and to secure the financing.

Conclusion: The draft legislation falls short of our expectations

  • Overall, the current draft may increase the collection quota in connection with the current market situation but presumably will reduce the overall quantities. One of the reasons for this is that the quantities from the previous two years have been included when calculating the collection rate.
  • Furthermore, there is no incentive to exceed the collection rate, since no compensation for any multiple collections are included. The additional effort in administration is significantly increased by including the EAR and exceeds any benefits, i.e. it becomes more bureaucratic and more expensive for manufacturers without the necessity to collect more batteries.
  • The definition of ‘pick-up time’ and ‘quantity’ is perfectly understandable, but the definition of 90KG maximum we hope is a mistake, and 90KG is meant as a minimum instead. In our view, the 90KG minimum is still not ideal. This applies in particular to the transport necessary, increased CO² emissions and the extra load on the roads without us recognising any added value.
  • The inclusion of free collection points leads to further fragmentation of the collection volumes and increased expenditure in logistics, without it being obvious that additional battery quantities are being collected.

On the whole, the draft law falls short of our expectations. In particular, there would be a lack of increased collection volumes, recycling efficiency and processing would not be simplified. You can download our detailed statement here: EN_EBL_BattLaw_Statement.