Recycling of Electric and Hybrid vehicle batteries
When we are asked questions about the sustainability of electric vehicles, they are often focused around the disposal of the vehicle’s battery and it was those questions that prompted this article. Tom Maple, our Head of Automotive, has had a closer look at the Regulations.
The Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009 (WBAR)
The relevant statutory provisions regarding the disposal of electric vehicle batteries can be found in The Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009 (WBAR).
WBAR divides batteries into three distinct categories; automotive, industrial, and portable. Confusingly, electric vehicle batteries are not automotive batteries for the purposes of WBAR; instead, they are industrial batteries, because they are batteries that are used as a source of power for propulsion in an electric vehicle.
28 day Rule
Under Regulation 42 WBAR, producers of industrial batteries must register with the Office for Product Safety and Standards within 28 days of first placing the batteries on the UK market.
Producers must provide information on (i) the total tonnage, (ii) the chemistry, and the brand name of the batteries being put on the market by 31 March of the following year.
It should be noted that any manufacturer or importer that places the batteries on the UK market will be classed as a producer, and will therefore be obliged to comply with WBAR. This includes placing batteries on the market within a product, as is this case with an electric car.
Care should be required as to who an importer is since, post Brexit, it may be that where previously bringing goods into the UK from the EU was not an import, it now is.
Duty of Producers
It is important to note that under Regulation 35 WBAR, producers of industrial batteries are under a duty to take back industrial batteries from any “end-user” on request, free of charge and within a reasonable time, if:
a) the end-user is supplied by the producer with new industrial batteries;
b) the end-user is unable to return the batteries to another producer; or
c) the batteries are of the same chemistry type as new industrial batteries placed on the market by the producer.
An “end-user” is the person who last used the battery (or a waste disposal authority or person acting on behalf of such in connection with its functions under s.51 Environmental Protection Act 1990 (these functions include the disposal of controlled waste and household waste)).
Duty to Publish
Under that same Regulation 35, producers of industrial batteries are also obliged to publish details of how end-users of industrial batteries can return their industrial batteries.
This may be done by publishing said information on the producer’s website.
Treatment and Recycling
Once the producer has recovered the waste industrial batteries, they must be sent to an approved battery treatment operator or an approved battery exporter for treatment and recycling.
It should be noted that hybrid vehicles will usually have an industrial battery (electric propulsion) and an automotive battery (ignition power). As such, producers of hybrid vehicles will have to comply with WBAR in the context of both industrial batteries and automotive batteries.
The regulations for automotive batteries are much the same as those for industrial batteries, albeit the duty for producers of automotive batteries to collect said batteries from the final holders of said batteries does not require any of those conditions mentioned in Regulation 35 to be met. Instead, under Regulation 36, the producer is obliged to collect the automotive batteries from the end user free of charge and within a reasonable time upon the final holder’s request, with no other prerequisites.
Landfill and Incineration
For both automotive and industrial batteries, it is forbidden for any person to dispose of batteries in landfill sites or by incineration; see Regulation 56 WBAR.
Producers of electric and hybrid vehicles must make sure that they are compliant with WBAR. Compliance covers many layers from registration to recycling. In summary:
- The obligation to take back and dispose of the battery in an electric or hybrid car falls on the producer.
- It is important to note that “producer” is not limited to manufacturers, it includes importer who places the batteries on the UK market. That would therefore include any dealership who is importing the vehicle and placing it on the UK market
- Producers of industrial batteries are obliged to publish details of how end-users can return them.
- (There are separate regs for dealerships who sell batteries as a separate item – we will cover that off in a separate article but in short if it’s more than 32kg a year being sold, retailers must offer free in store take back)
- Producers of industrial batteries must register with the Office for Product Safety and Standards within 28 days of first placing the batteries on the UK market.
- Once recovered the waste industrial batteries must be sent to an approved battery treatment operator or an approved battery exporter for treatment and recycling.
It is a criminal offence to breach these regulations and offenders are liable to a fine if they do so.
The authors assume no responsibility to any party in respect of this article. Specific legal advice tailored to specific problems should always be obtained.