Originally published on EU SCIENCE HUB, the science and knowledge service of the European Commission.

A study recently published by the Commission’s Joint Research Center assesses the best way to identify at European level a fifth additional category of batteries – those used for light means of transport (LMT) such as e-bikes and new products similar – which would ensure their proper collection and recycling.

The current 2006 Battery Directive identifies three categories of batteries. A fourth – for batteries in electric vehicles (EVs) – is already included in the legislative proposal of December 2020 currently being discussed by the European co-legislators.

In support of this ongoing legislative process, a new JRC report explores the modernization of collection rules (e.g. definition of the fifth additional category, alternative collection targets for Member States) to ensure collection efficient, safe and fair waste of LMT batteries.

This is particularly relevant given the growing gap between the large number of innovative products placed on the market and the volume of waste that became available much later, due to the longer lifespan of e-bike batteries (typically 9 years ), compared to the 3 years assumed in the current collection target definition.

The main conclusion of the study underlines the need for an alternative target to compensate for this discrepancy leading to shifts between the collection target and the volume available as waste over time.

Why a new category of LMT batteries would contribute to better collection and recycling

At this point, due to the technical development and cost reduction of increasingly versatile lithium batteries, it is not known how many new LMT applications will appear on the market in the years to come.

With a potentially large volume of waste expected in the future, this could affect the collection and recycling stages of these batteries. Additionally, with higher energy density and larger batteries compared to portable batteries, safe handling and collection requires special attention.

With the fifth category of LMT batteries as defined by the JRC, a dedicated return channel including sports shops, bicycle and scooter dealers would have environmental benefits.

In addition, the study suggests that other non-collection requirements, such as durability, information and remanufacturing as well as safety during collection and handling, could be aligned with the characteristics. specific to LMT batteries.

The most “scalable” approach: change the target on the “Available for collection” basis

This JRC report explores the application of the “Available for Collection” (AfC) method, an alternative to the current methodology which establishes collection rate targets based on the quantities that become available as waste.

The main recommendation is therefore to modernize the target base, converting the target based on the placing on the market (POM) in the legislative proposal – based on sales in the previous 3 years – into a target based on the placing on the market (POM) in the legislative proposal. ‘AfC, in anticipation of highly uncertain future waste volumes for LMT and portable batteries.

The more dynamic the future market for LMTs and portable batteries, the more reason there will be to consider AfC-based targets, which better reflect actual volumes of battery waste.

This JRC report considers that the development of a common methodology based on the AfC is feasible. It would more accurately reflect the volumes of waste in the EU and by Member State, based on the specific development of their national markets.

Adopting the alternative approach would already have collection targets by 2025 instead of 2030 and would be more “continually difficult” compared to the initial target based on the POM.

Background

This work contributes to the preparation of the implementation of the battery regulation project proposed by the European Commission in December 2020, in particular concerning the provisions for the collection of portable battery waste.

The draft regulation explicitly states that “the JRC will play a key role in supporting the Commission in some of the technical work required”, which refers to a series of planned measures moving towards more sustainable batteries for the EU in the past. ‘to come up.

The Commission proposal for a battery regulation (COM (2020) 798 final) includes targets for the collection rate of portable battery waste on the basis of the Battery Directive (CE / 2006/66), which uses the POM approach. For now, these targets exclude the batteries that power LMT products until 2030.

Instead, the proposal contains a review clause which requires setting a separate collection target for waste batteries that feed LMTs in light of market developments.

The Commission is committed to exploring the possibility of establishing collection rate targets on the basis of the quantities available for collection, including LMT batteries, in the current legislative process. The recently published JRC report presents the results of this exploratory work.


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