MEP ban on hazardous batteries rejected by Commission

The Parliament’s vote in favour of banning nickel-cadmium batteries
was immediately followed by a Commission statement rejecting the
MEPs’ disputed amendments.

On 20 April, the parliament’s plenary backed the position of the
Environment Committee. Under the proposal as it currently stands, a
ban is to be introduced on all batteries containing more than five
parts per million (ppm) of mercury by weight, 40 ppm of lead,
and/or 20 ppm of cadmium. 

However, a list of applications that are to be exempt from the
ban is to be drawn up. These include products for which no
substitutes are yet available, including batteries designed for
aeroplanes, trains and cordless appliances.

These amendments will be rejected by the Commission in its
modified proposal.

As regards targets for the collection of used batteries, the
Parliament backed a Committee proposal to collect 50 per cent of
ordinary household batteries sold in a given year. The Commission’s
initial target was more modest, at 40 per cent according to
Parliament (160 grammes per inhabitant or four to five units per
year). The Commission had also called for higher collecting targets
of nickel-cadmium batteries, at 80 per cent of the units disposed
of.

These too, the Commission said, will be rejected in its modified
proposal.

A point where Parliament and Commission agree is on making
producers contribute to the collection of all battery types.

The Commission says it "disagrees with
some of the 87 amendments put forward by the EP" and announced that
it would "stand firm" on its initial proposal. It said the
amendments were "not supported by the results of the Extended
Impact Assessment" which it considers as "the most cost effective
proposal". A modified bill will be introduced that will accept some
of the amendments and reject others, the Commission announced in a
statement. 

The Green group in Parliament strongly
supports the text voted by MEPs. Greens warned against Ni-Cad
batteries as accounting for "more than 75 per cent of the use of
cadmium, a known human carcinogen, which is also classified as
'very toxic to aquatic organisms'". The Greens criticise the
Commission's proposal not to ban Ni-Cad batteries as a concession
made to big business. "All this comes primarily as a result of
pressure from one company – SAFT, the world-leading manufacturer of
industrial nickel-cadmium batteries," said Paul Lannoye, a Belgian
(Ecolo) member of the Environment Committee. The absurd thing, he
says, is that SAFT actually produces and promotes alternatives to
nickel-cadmium batteries.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB)
and Greenpeace congratulated the Parliament
for resisting industry pressure not to ban Ni-Cad batteries.
"Taking action at source to substitute the most dangerous
chemicals, such as lead, mercury and cadmium, is by far the best
way to protect our environment and health," the two said in a joint
statement.

Before the vote, European battery
manufacturers
represented by EuroBat sent an appeal to the
Plenary to reject th e Blokland Report. It said that such radical
changes from the Commission's initial proposal could only be drawn
up if new impact assessments were provided. "The main objection by
our association is that the purpose of the directive is not the
prevention of 'heavy metals' in batteries, but rather the
end-of-life management. The proposed prohibition with exemptions on
all lead-acid batteries is without justification and not workable,"
EuroBat warned. It prefers good collection and recycling practices
based on voluntary agreements.

 

 

In November 2003, the Commission tabled a proposal for a new
Battery Directive. The proposal imposes an obligation to collect
and recycle all batteries placed on the market in the EU so that
they are not sent for landfill or incinerated and the various
metals which they contain can be recovered. The Commission decided
to opt against a ban on nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries
(see EURACTIV 26 November
2003
). 

On 6 April 2004, the Parliament's Environment Committee adopted
the report by Hans Blokland MEP (EDD-Netherlands) which
considerably tightened the initial proposal by calling for stricter
recycling schemes and introducing a ban on nickel-cadmium
batteries.

The Commission has announced that it would table a modified
proposal for submission to the EU Council of ministers.

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