Different charging standards, devices that are hardly repairable and therefore quickly disposed of – the EU Parliament already took up the fight against the growing electronic waste a while ago. Now, the focus is shifting to permanently installed batteries.
In the past, technical devices were comparatively easy to repair. But then manufacturers began to glue components together and install them so tightly that they could only be accessed with special tools. As a result, the cost of repair grew, making it increasingly unpopular. Many users disposed of cell phones and the like instead and opted to buy new ones – a disaster for the environment and resources. Wear-and-tear items such as batteries are particularly affected by the problem, but the EU Parliament now wants to put an end to this.
EU Parliament wants to take action against permanently installed batteries
The EU Parliament wants to ban permanently installed or even glued batteries in electronic devices in the future. This should be as early as January 2023, provided the EU Council of Ministers agrees. With this decision, the MEPs want to increase the service life of devices by making it much easier to replace defective batteries. However, this does not mean going back to earlier times when users could replace the batteries themselves via a flap or a removable back. Rather, the EU Parliament wants to significantly minimize the effort of a replacement with the resolution and thus make it possible outside of manufacturer workshops and special stores.
The regulation affects not only smartphones, but all types of devices that are powered by rechargeable batteries. This therefore also includes laptops, e-bikes, mobile game consoles such as the Nintendo Switch, as well as radios and speakers. Until now, it has usually been the case that these products are disposed of as soon as there is a defect in the battery. Repairing them is usually too inconvenient and too expensive.
“In the EU, we want to produce batteries as sustainably as possible in the future, use them for a long time & continue via recycling in the cycle. Consumers* should be able to rely on the sustainability of batteries.” @SteffiLemke . #batteryregulation https://t.co/cioNEPmpJx pic.twitter.com/CN7v3dzbFS
– German Federal Ministry for the Environment (@BMUV) March 17, 2022
Battery manufacturers must also adapt
However, the planned decision does not only affect hardware manufacturers. The producers of accumulators and batteries will probably also have to adjust to changes in the future. At the request of the EU Parliament, by 2024 all batteries used in smartphones and the like must be designed so that they can be easily and safely removed and replaced by consumers or independent operators. At the same time, MEPs are in favor of minimum values for recovered raw materials such as cobalt, lead, lithium and nickel. In this way, they want to significantly increase the recycling rate of valuable materials.
Their promotion, including the working conditions and risks in the respective country, is also to become more transparent across the entire supply chain. The battery industry is therefore to be required to comply with the internationally recognized due diligence standard throughout the entire manufacturing process.
Industry not very enthusiastic
Not exactly surprisingly, the industry is not very enthusiastic about the planned resolution. It criticizes that the plans of the EU Parliament would impair the durability and safety of the batteries. The Parliament counters with mandatory information on the energy and performance as well as the service life and durability of rechargeable batteries.
The new decision could also mean that smartphone manufacturers will have to adapt the production of their devices in the future. Due to all the technical components, they have long been fighting for every millimeter of space in the casing. Removable batteries could become a problem in this regard.
- EU announcement on rechargeable batteries (English).
- New EU rules for batteries