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U.S. Policy

Federal

Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act of 1996

This act applies to rechargeable batteries, and requires that Ni-Cd and certain SSLA (small sealed lead-acid) batteries be easily removeable from products and labelled in a uniform manner. Although important to the regulation of rechargeable batteries, the act is a landmark in the history of single-use batteries. It prohibited the use of mercury in alkaline-manganese and zinc-carbon batteries, and regulated its use in mercuric oxide batteries. By the time the bill passed, most battery companies had already taken it upon themselves to remove mercury from their product, but the act ensured that the mercury remained out of their products.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

In Title 40, Protection of Environment, the law requires that nickel-cadmium and lead-acid batteries be disposed of as Universal Wastes, meaning they must be taken to a specialized universal waste handling facility. According to the EPA, Universal Wastes are defined as hazardous wastes that are commonly produced. California has also included single-use batteries, such as alkaline manganese batteries, as Universal Waste under RCRA, and requires that they be diverted from the regular waste stream.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)

Often referred to as "Superfund," this law, passed on December 11, 1980, created a tax for chemical and petroleum industries and gave the government the right to respond as they deem fit when a release of hazardous chemicals threatened the health of humans or of the environment. The revenue from the tax then goes into programs to clean up hazardous waste sites that are either uncontrolled or have been abandoned. These sites can be the result of several different processes in the life cycle of the battery whether it is mining, manufacturing, or recycling. Some well-known Superfund sites have been associated with the lead-acid battery industry.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

State-Level Policy Leaders

California

A leader in battery policy, California is currently the only state that regulates the disposal of all battery chemistries, and most notably, that of single-use batteries. In fact, until the Vermont Primary Battery Law was passed in 2014, California was the only state with policy requiring any kind of special disposal for single-use batteries. In California, it is illegal to throw primary batteries in the trash. Instead, they must be recycled, or taken to a hazardous or universal waste handling facility. Aside from primary batteries, the state also mandates that retailers provide a means of collection for the rechargeable batteries they sell, and that rechargeable batteries come with proper disposal instructions.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

Minnesota

In Minnesota, any manufacturer selling a rechargeable battery, must also ensure there is a collection program approved by the state. Any rechargeable batteries that fail to meet the collection standards cannot be sold in Minnesota. Additionally, any products containing non-removable rechargeable batteries must be disposed of at a designated collection site since they cannot be thrown away with the battery inside them. Although the Minnesota has a strict policy for rechargeable batteries, the state does not have policy covering single-use batteries.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

Vermont

Like in the other leading policy states, it is illegal in Vermont to allow rechargeable batteries to enter a landfill through the municipal solid waste system. However, Vermont was also the first state to mandate that producers of primary batteries finance collection programs for their product. This differs from California's current policy because it puts the responsibility on the manufacturer to handle single-use batteries at end of life.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

States with collection Policies
Small Sealed Lead Acid (SSLA/Pb) Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) Lithium Ion (Li-ion) Primary Batteries Lead-Acid
Arkansas x x*
Arizona x*
California x x x x x x*
Colorado x*
Connecticut x x x*
Florida x x x*
Georgia x*
Hawaii x x*
Idaho x*
Illinois x*
Indiana x x*
Iowa x x x*
Kentucky x x*
Louisiana x x*
Maine x x x*
Maryland x x
Maryland x x
Massachusetts x
Michigan x*
Minnesota x x x x x x*
Mississippi x x*
Missouri x (Kansas City) x*
Nebraska x x
Nevada x
New Hampshire x x x
New Jersey x x x*
New Mexico x x
New York x x x x x x*
North Carolina x x*
North Dakota x x*
Ohio x*
Oklahoma x*
Oregon x*
Pennsylvania x x*
Rhode Island x*
South Carolina x x*
South Dakota x x*
Tennessee x x*
Texas x x*
Utah x x*
Vermont x x x x*
Washington x x*
West Virginia x x*
Wisconsin x x*
Wyoming x x*

* State has accepted Battery Council International's lead-acid battery recycling model policy. Some states require a $5-15 deposit to help incentivize return.

States without policies

Although in Alaska, Alabama, Delaware, Kansas, Montana, and Missouri (aside from Kansas City) collection of batteries is not required by any state-specific law, many municipalities still provide collection programs for rechargeable batteries classified as Universal Waste (such as nickel-cadmium and lead-acid). In the case of lead-acid batteries, recycling the lead is profitable, giving retailers incentive to provide collection programs.

E.U. Policy

1991 European Union Directive on Batteries

This directive required that batteries (and appliances, when applicable) were marked for separate collection or recycling, and labeled with their heavy metal content. It required separate collection for batteries more than 25 mg of mercury per cell, more than 0.025% cadmium by weight, and more than 0.4% lead by weight. Requirements for alkaline batteries were slightly more stringent, with the limit for mercury content set at 0.025% by weight. This act was a key event in the history of the mercury phase-out in alkaline batteries.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

2006 European Union Directive on Batteries and Accumulators

This directive replaced the 1991 European Union Directive on Batteries, making mercury reduction in batteries more stringent. It prohibited the sale of batteries or accumulators with more than 0.0005% mercury by weight and portable batteries that were more than 0.002% cadmium by weight. It also set collection goals for batteries, with targets at 25% by September of 2012 and at 45% by September of 2016. One aspect of this policy that makes it unique is that it required that a means of assessing recycling efficiency be created. In 2012, the European Commission released these standards. In regard to single-use batteries, the Commission set a goal of recycling 50% by average weight of batteries other than lead-acid and nickel-cadmium--a category that includes alkaline and other primary batteries.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.
2012 Collection Rates
Australia No data
Belgium 52%
Bulgaria 34%
Cyprus 11%
Czech Republic 29%
Denmark No data
Estonia 27%
Finland No data
France 36%
Germany 42%
Greece 36%
Hungary No data
Iceland No data
Ireland No data
Italy 27%
Latvia 27.5%
Lithuania No data
Luxembourg 69%
Malta 20%
Netherlands No data
Norway 39%
Poland No data
Portugal No data
Romania No data
Slovakia 71%
Slovenia No data
Spain No data
Sweden 53% (estimated)
Switzerland 72%
UK 27%

Canadian Policy

In Canada, much of the battery regulation is handled at a provincial level. Although each province has its own policy, all offer recycling for any battery that weigh 5 kilograms or less through Call2Recycle.

British Columbia: Environmental Management Act; Recycling Regulation.

This part of the law mandates the collection of any battery used in an electronic device. British Columbia set collection targets at 12% in 2010 and 40% in 2014. In order to reach these target Call2Recycle created a product stewardship plan for British Columbia, but in 2014 the collection rate only reached 28%. While British Columbia did not reach the target, collection rates are improving, even if more slowly than anticipated.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

Ontario's Waste Diversion Act of 2002

This act requires that Waste Diversion Ontario develop and implement waste diversion programs for both regular and special wastes (which includes batteries), while working to raise public awareness about how to participate in the programs. It is also responsible for monitoring the efficacy of the programs. The Orange Drop Program was created under Waste Diversion Ontario, which provides collection points for consumers to drop off their regular waste (such as household batteries).

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

Waste Reduction and Prevention Act: Household Hazardous Material and Prescribed Material Stewardship Regulation.

Under this 1990 act, the Lead Acid Battery Collection Program was created in Manitoba. Operating under the Interstate Battery System of Canada (IBSC), it uses a two-pronged approach with separate recovery programs for consumers and commercial industry.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

China

Administration on the Control of Pollution Caused by Electronic Information Products.

Also known as a Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) law, but not to be confused with the E.U.'s RoHS law, applies to a broad category of products known as Electronic Information Products (EIP), which includes batteries. In effect since March of 2007, the policy requires labelling of all products containing lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers. The limits vary depending on the product. Should the product contain more than the allowable concentration of the respective hazard, it must be marked as specified by the law and include an Environmentally Friendly Use Period (EFUP), which is how long the product may be used before it might leak or become hazardous. One of the limitations to the policy is that the manufacturer alone is responsible for reporting levels of the regulated parts of the product.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

Japan

Law for Promotion of Utilization of Recyclable Resources.

As this act pertains to batteries, it requires the labelling and return of portable rechargeable batteries, although it does not set any goal collection rates. It goes about this using a three pronged approach that targets businesses, consumers, and government. From businesses, it encourages the use of recyclable resources, from the government it mandates financial support for programs, and from consumers it requires cooperation.The law lays out measures for designing a system of self-collection, meaning that it places the responsibility of collection and recycling on manufacturers.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

Brazil

CONAMA's Resolution 257/99.

CONAMA (Conselho Nacional de Meio Ambiente), Brazil's Environmental Council, mandated that batteries containing lead, cadmium, and mercury, must either be returned to their place of purchase, or to a collection center established by the manufacturer so that they can be either recycled or disposed of correctly. It also regulated content of these heavy metals after January 1, 2000, limiting zinc-manganese and alkaline batteries at 0.025% mercury, 0.025% cadmium, and 0.400% lead. After January 1, 2001, it required that they contain no more than 0.010% mercury, 0.015% cadmium, or 0.200% lead by weight. For button cells, the regulations were less strict, only setting the limit at 25 mg of mercury.

To see the policy, click here. (in Portuguese).

For more background information, click here.

India

The Batteries Management and Handling Rules.

Passed in 2001 and amended in 2010, this policy places regulations on lead acid batteries by creating a Deposit Refund System (DRS) and mandating that manufacturers take part in the buy-back system for used lead-acid batteries (ULABs). It also requires that any ULABs collected by retailers be returned to a registered recycler to better ensure lead recovery.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

The Rest of the World...

Although many countries have adopted regulations that apply to batteries, this isn't the case for every country in the world. For example, South Africa does not have any EPR (extended producer responsibility) policies for batteries that are mandated by law. In fact, many countries are lacking fully-formed programs for waste diversion in general. Even though policies may not exist in every part of the world, many countries have them in the making. Argentina and Uruguay, for example, are considering battery-related legislation.

International Policy

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

The Basel Convention is a group of countries who have signed, accepted, or ratified the international treaty designed to regulate the movement of toxic wastes from country to country. It was adopted on March 22, 1989 in Basel, Switzerland due to growing concern in developing countries regarding the import of toxic wastes by other countries (largely, developed countries). The Convention prohibits the dumping of toxic waste in the Antarctic, prevents the movement of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries, and discourages translocation of toxic wastes to countries that are not a part of the Basel Convention. Most importantly, the Convention requires that all parties involved with the movement of the waste (either on the sending or receiving sides) give written consent. The Basel Convention is particularly relevant to the export of lead-acid batteries and e-waste.

To see the policy, click here.

For more background information, click here.

North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Signed into law in December of 1993, NAFTA is an agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.. One of the important pieces to the agreement was the reduction or elimination of tariffs on trade between the countries. Another key provision laid down by NAFTA was the common goal of equalizing the standards for environmental and human health in the three countries. A point of recent concern has been the trade in scrap lead-acid batteries in North America, which has been studied by The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).

To see the CEC study, click here.

For more background information, click here.

Supply Chain Transparency.

When considering the sustainability of batteries, a major consideration is regulating the raw materials supply chain: to what extent are workers, local communities, and the environment protected from the ill effects of mining, processing, and transporting raw materials for batteries? Unfortunately, there are no international standards to ensure that materials such as graphite, manganese, zinc, lead, and many other battery materials, are processed and supplied sustainably. In the past decade, there have been policy initiatives to reduce the use of conflict minerals, which are often used in consumer electronics, but those policies have had little impact on the supply chain for batteries in particular. Additional policies to ensure the transparency and sustainability of the battery supply chain are needed.