European Law Monitor

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new f2Irish Presidency secures agreement on ban of cadmium and mercury in batteries

Environment Council Chair Phil Hogan has today welcomed the agreement on amendments to the Batteries Directive, heralding it as an important step in the development of safer, more energy efficient batteries that will benefit both human health and the environment. The agreement bans the use of cadmium in cordless power tool batteries, and button cells containing mercury.

In 2006 the European Union adopted legislation which sought to make batteries and accumulators less harmful to the environment.  The Batteries Directive includes a specific ban on batteries and accumulators containing mercury and cadmium, but an exemption was provided for batteries for cordless power tools and button cells containing low levels of mercury.

Agreement has been reached with the European Parliament to remove these exemptions while a further amendment to the Directive which clarifies that batteries must be readily removable by either end-users or qualified professionals will be welcomed by consumer groups and industry.   

The main benefits of the agreement are:

  •     substantial reduction in the amount of cadmium annually brought into the European economy and used in everyday products and a corresponding reduction in the risk of cadmium releases into the environment
  •     reduction in the intentional world extraction of cadmium from primary resources by more than 10%
  •     reduction in the environmental impact from the use of mercury and the risks associated with mercury being released into the environment given that button cells, due to their size are often inappropriately disposed of in municipal waste
  •     acceleration of the switch to the manufacture of Hg-free batteries.

In welcoming the agreement, Minister for Environment Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD, said:

“Given the environmental effects of both cadmium and mercury I am delighted with the successful conclusion of these discussions with the European Parliament. Both substances are toxic where they accumulate in the environment and can cause irreversible damage. Alternative technologies continue to be developed and as such it is appropriate to act now to remove exemptions which are clearly out of date today. I am also satisfied that this agreement provides industry with the necessary scope for further technological development and innovation in this area.”

The Minister also paid tribute to the work undertaken by the two previous Presidencies (Denmark and Cyprus) before the Irish Presidency took on the responsibility of securing agreement.