The Germany Battery Act (BattG)
The Batteries Act came into force in Germany on 1st December 2009. It governs the sale, return and disposal of batteries and accumulators and transposes the European Directive 2006/66/EG into national law.
Aim of the Germany Battery Act
The aim of the BattG is to increase the percentage of batteries and accumulators that are returned, because these contain not only valuable raw materials but also substances that are environmental and health hazards. The law is supposed to extend the responsibility of manufacturers for the batteries and accumulators they place on the market to cover the entire life cycle of their equipment.
It therefore requires manufacturers, distributors or importers of batteries and accumulators to contribute to the cost of disposing of these (the responsibility for their products and the responsibility for taking back and disposing of those products). Companies are obliged to take back the batteries and accumulators they have placed on the market and dispose of them in accordance with specific environmental standards. Systems for taking back batteries have been put in place for this purpose. In addition, Germany has set up a register at the Federal Environmental Agency.
Responsibilities of companies
The BattG requires manufacturers to…
- ...register batteries and accumulators before they go on sale.
- …label batteries containing hazardous substances.
- …report the numbers sold at regular intervals.
- …offer suitable facilities for returning the batteries they have placed on the market.
- …ensure that the products are disposed in an environmentally compatible way.
Who needs to comply with the BattG?
- Anyone who places batteries or devices with built-in or enclosed batteries on the German market for the first time, for the purposes of distribution, consumption or use.
- When selling batteries by unidentified manufacturers, the seller is automatically considered to be the manufacturer.
National returns system: Joint Battery Returns System (GRS Batterien)
The foundation Stiftung Gemeinsames Rücknahmesystem Batterien (Joint Battery Returns System, GRS Batterien) was set up in 1998 by leading battery manufacturers. GRS Batterien is a joint system for returning batteries used in devices in line with the BattG; it coordinates the collection, sorting and recycling of used batteries throughout Germany. The returns system is a non-profit organisation, whose work is financed by manufacturers and importers of batteries who use the service provided by GRS.
(Source: GRS Batterien website)
Return of end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment by consumers
Private individuals can leave their faulty or used batteries with retailers (e.g. in the green collection boxes provided by GRS Batterien). In some cases, municipal collection facilities also offer special containers for this purpose.
Disposing of the batteries
The Joint Battery Returns System (GRS Batterien) ultimately coordinates the disposal of the batteries. As soon as the containers are full, GRS Batterien ensures that they are disposed of professionally. The disposal is financed by means of the fees that the companies have to pay to GRS Batterien. The individual fees are determined by the number of batteries sold in Germany.
Planned changes to the Batteries Act
The Federal Ministry of the Environment (BMU) plans to make certain changes to the Batteries Act. According to the Joint Battery Returns System (GRS), this decision was triggered by “flaws in the structural implementation of the Batteries Act (BattG)” which lead to “considerable distortions in competition” for certain companies.
A concrete draft of the new law is likely to be published in the second half of this year. The exact details and the time when the new law comes into force are not yet known.
The European Battery Directive
The European Battery Directive 2006/66/EC was adopted in Europe from 26 September 2006, and requires European countries to transpose the Directive into national law. The aim of the Battery Directive is to increase the percentage of batteries that are returned and recycled, because they contain not only valuable raw materials but also substances that are environmental and health hazards. On top of this, it sets limits for the use of harmful substances such as lead, mercury and cadmium. The Battery Directive requires manufacturers, distributors or importers of batteries to contribute to the cost of disposing of the batteries (responsibility for product or responsibility for taking back and disposing of batteries).
Implementation of the European Battery Directive 2006/66/EC in other countries
The members of the European Union had until 26th September 2008 to transpose the European Directive 2006/66/EC into national law. Before they start to sell their products, manufacturers of batteries in the respective countries are obliged to register with the appropriate battery collection systems or authorities. For this purpose, each country has its own national collection scheme. In Germany, for example, this is the Joint Battery Returns System (GRS Batterien).
However the way in which the European Battery Directive has been implemented varies from one country to the next. Companies are subject to the specific national laws on importing and trading with batteries and accumulators that apply in each country. Unfortunately, this also means that the registration procedure varies from country to country too, meaning that they have to register separately for each country. There is no European-wide registration authority.
On top of this, in many countries that are members of the European Union, the Battery Directive requires that – in addition to registering – you also have to regularly report the numbers you have sold and ensure that they are disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.