To boost the collection and recycling of used domestic batteries, new EU-wide rules came into force on Sept. 26 to reduce the environmental and health hazards posed by mercury, lead, cadmium and other metals. "As of today certain recycling targets have to be respected by member states and that means they would have had to adjust their own legislation," said European Commission spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich.
The new rules also cover industrial and vehicle batteries, ensuring that users have the possibility of returning used batteries for collection. However even under current practice, the collection of industrial and automotive batteries is already close to 100% due to their recycling value.
The targets, already agreed by member states, are the collection of 25% of discarded household batteries by 2012 rising to 45% in 2016. By 26 September 2009 all batteries collected should be recycled, with leeway in certain circumstances.
The European Commission sees the "battery directive" as an important step on its wider goal of a greener society. Officials are concerned about the environmental and health hazards posed by batteries being dumped in landfill sites.
Mercury, lead and cadmium are by far the most problematic substances in the battery waste stream, according to the commission.Batteries containing these substances are classified in Europe as "hazardous waste."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008