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The aim of the act is to transpose into national law Directive 2006/66/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 September 2006 on batteries and accumulators and repealing Directive 91/157/EEC (Batteries Directive). This directive was amended by Directive 2013/56/EU in 2013 and transposed by the first act amending the Batteries Act and the Circular Economy Act, which entered into force on 26 November 2015.
Due to changes on the market for the disposal of batteries, a further amendment of the legal requirements was necessary to ensure legal certainty for all stakeholders. The first act amending the Batteries Act (Batteriegesetz - BattG) was published on 9 November 2020 in the Federal Law Gazette I, issue 50, and entered into force on 1 January 2021.
Significant amendments pertain to the relationship between the collection schemes. This relationship is now one of competition between the manufacturers’ collection schemes. The solidarity-based system, which had been in place previously, no longer exists. The main elements of the amendment are:
- Change from a notification to a registration obligation for all manufacturers of batteries
- New responsibilities and framework conditions for the approval of manufacturers’ collection schemes
- Incorporation of the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) register foundation (stiftung ear) into manufacturer registration and the approval of collection schemes as well as enforcement in this area
- Establishment of minimum standards for containers used by the collection schemes for collection and pick up
- Establishment of extended information obligations, a joint information and public relations work obligation for collection schemes and a higher collection rate for waste portable batteries of at least 50 percent
In addition, requirements were implemented regarding extended producer responsibility from Directive (EU) 2018/851 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste (Waste Framework Directive). Directive (EU) 2018/851 entered into force on 4 July 2018. Existing producer responsibility schemes have to be adapted in line with the new requirements by 5 January 2023.
The Batteries Act prohibits the placing on the market of batteries containing more than 0.0005 percent of mercury by weight. It is also prohibited to place on the market portable batteries containing more than 0.002 percent of cadmium by weight. Portable batteries for emergency or alarm systems including emergency lighting, medical equipment and cordless power tools are exempt from this prohibition.
Types of batteries
For the purpose of collection, the Batteries Act differentiates between portable, industrial and automotive batteries. Portable batteries are all-sealed batteries that can be carried by hand. Typical examples include single cell batteries, but also button cell batteries and other batteries built into electrical appliances. Industrial batteries are batteries designed for exclusively industrial, commercial or agricultural purposes. Other industrial batteries include batteries used in electric and hybrid vehicles. By contrast, automotive batteries include any batteries used for automotive starter, lighting or ignition power. These are referred to as the starter batteries of vehicles which are neither electric or hybrid vehicles.
Obligations of distributors
Retailers have to take back used batteries free of charge from consumers. This applies to all types of batteries. Returned batteries have to be transferred to the collection schemes for recycling or disposal. Distributors have to inform consumers about the options for returning batteries.
Distributors of automotive batteries (starter batteries for vehicles) are obligated to charge end consumers a deposit of 7.50 euros including value-added tax if they do not return a used automotive battery when purchasing a new one. The deposit will be reimbursed when an automotive battery is returned. Distributors offering automotive batteries using means of distance communication have the option to reimburse the deposit upon submission of proof of return instead of the actual used battery. The proof of return must document the proper disposal, for example through a public waste management authority or a local retailer. Distributors offering batteries of the same type are obligated to take back waste automotive batteries free of charge and provide consumers with proof of return. Waste automotive batteries that are returned can be disposed of by the distributors themselves or handed over to the manufacturers free of charge for disposal. Distributors who place industrial batteries on the market are obligated to take back used batteries of the same type free of charge. Distributors can dispose of the batteries themselves or return them to the manufacturers free of charge.
Obligations of public waste management authorities
Public waste management authorities are obligated to take back used portable batteries free of charge, which consumers in turn have to separate from waste equipment pursuant to the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act (ElectroG). In addition, they can voluntarily take back all other waste portable and automotive batteries free of charge. The collected waste portable batteries then have to be transferred to one of the collection schemes for disposal. If public waste management authorities offer the option of returning waste automotive batteries, they must do so free of charge and provide the consumer with proof of return. Public waste management authorities are themselves responsible for the disposal of waste automotive batteries.
Obligations of manufacturers and collection schemes
Batteries containing harmful substances have to be labelled. Batteries may only be placed on the market if the manufacturer has registered with stiftung ear (waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) register foundation) before their participation in the market. Key information to be provided for registration includes the brand and type of battery that is to be placed on the market.
Manufacturers can ensure collection of waste portable batteries through participation in one or more of the collection schemes set up or operated by manufacturers. As part of the registration process, manufacturers will have to state which collection scheme they will use. One of the main obligations of manufacturers and the collection schemes they are using is to provide consumer information. The collection schemes are therefore obligated to jointly inform consumers, to an appropriate extent, of their obligations to properly dispose of waste portable batteries and to jointly design a uniform label for collection points. Against the background of the risks associated with waste batteries containing lithium, manufacturers are also obligated to inform consumers about the risks of the use, collection and treatment of batteries containing lithium. In future, collection schemes will have to step up their collection efforts in order to reach the collection rate for waste portable batteries of at least 50 percent.
Manufacturers are also obligated to take back waste industrial and automotive batteries free of charge for distributors and treatment facilities taking back waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and end-of-life vehicles (ELVs). Stakeholders taking back WEEE and ELVs may also take care of disposal themselves. However, they must then ensure that all requirements for treatment are met.
Recovery of waste batteries
The treatment of waste batteries is carried out on behalf of the manufacturers or, in the case of the disposal of waste industrial and automotive batteries, by those taking back the batteries. In this, it must be ensured that the stipulated recycling efficiencies are achieved. The disposal of automotive and industrial batteries is prohibited.
Obligations of consumers
Consumers are obliged to return waste batteries to retailers, collection points set up by public waste management authorities (for example mobile pollutant collection centres and recycling centres) or voluntary collection points (for example public institutions, businesses).