Waste Batteries and WEEE

Eucobat Positions
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Background

According to the WEEE Directive, proper treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) includes the removal of batteries from any separately collected WEEE.

‘Removal’ means manual, mechanical, chemical or metallurgic handling with the result that hazardous substances, mixturesand components are contained in an identifiable stream or are an identifiable part of a stream within the treatmentprocess.

The Batteries Directive stipulates that batteries should only be removable by qualified professionals, thus allowing the mandatory use of a (specific)tool.

The CENELEC Standard for Recycling of WEEE disposes that only those batteries that can be removed without using a tool should be removed from the appliances before any treatment process that can cause damage to them.

The combination of the above-mentioned provisions that 

  • batteries should only be removable by qualified professionals, thus allowing the mandatory use of a (specific) tool (Battery Directive), 
  • only those batteries that can be removed without using a tool should be removed from the appliances (European standard EN 50625-1), 

implies that a substantial part of the batteries from WEEE won’t be removed.

This is a formal confirmation of the existing practice that many batteries today are not removed during the WEEE depollution and dismantling process.

While generally for the members of Eucobat, the batteries put on the market integrated in an appliance represent 20-35% of the total amount of batteries put on the market, the batteries collected from the WEEE dismantlers generally only represent 3-9,5% of the total amount of collected batteries.

Not only this solution is not compliant with the provisions of the WEEE Directive, that clearly states that all batteries should be removed from any separately collected WEEE.

It also creates important safety risks during the recycling process of the WEEE.

Scientific studies clearly demonstrate that the probability of a spontaneous battery fire increases significantly because of mechanical damage or external short-circuiting.  

Another consequence of the chosen solution is that it is impossible for the compliance organizations for batteries to achieve the collection targets as foreseen in the Battery Directive.

Eucobat Position

In order to ensure that all batteries are removed from electrical and electronic appliances, and to prevent safety risks, Eucobat proposes that the provisions of the WEEE Directive and/or the European standard EN 50625-1 should be amended in such a way that:

  • all batteries should be removed prior to treatment of WEEE or during the treatment process provided that this process can ensure that batteries can be separated in a distinct stream and that the batteries remain undamaged, 
  • The only exception could be the batteries that are intended to ensure a continuity of power supply for safety, performance, medical or data integrity reasons, 
  • the integrity of the batteries should be guaranteed during the removal process, and
  • quantified objectives should be imposed on the WEEE dismantlers for the removal of batteries from the WEEE categories 5 (small equipment) and 6 (small IT and telecommunication equipment), as defined in annexes III and IV of the WEEE Directive.