Having exceeded the transposition deadline set up by Directive 2006/66/EC by more than a year, this summer the German legislator enacted a new "Act on the placing on the market, the collection and the environmentally friendly disposal of batteries and accumulators" (in short: "Battery Act") (Gesetz über das Inverkehrbringen, die Rücknahme und die umweltverträgliche Entsorgung von Batterien und Akkumulatoren – "Batteriegesetz"). Most of its provisions came into effect as early as 1 December 2009. However, the effectiveness of some material parts is suspended until 1 March 2010.
The most important changes compared to the old (and then outdated) German Ordinance on the Collection and Disposal of Waste Batteries and Accumulators (Verordnung über die Rücknahme und Entsorgung gebrauchter Batterien und Akkumulatoren – "Batterieverordnung") concern the
prohibition of cadmium batteries
labelling requirements and
and are outlined below. In addition to the above, the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act (Elektro- und Elektronikgerätegesetz) has been altered with regard to an easy removal of waste batteries from such equipment.
New reporting requirements
Prior to placing batteries on the German market, producers and distributors are obliged to register online with the German Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt). (Please note that the Battery Act does not distinguish between batteries and accumulators. Thus, the term "batteries" also includes accumulators.) This affects both batteries which are placed on the market separately and batteries incorporated in or supplied with other products.
New prohibition of cadmium batteries
In addition to the existing ban on batteries containing mercury, a ban has been imposed on portable batteries containing a specific level of cadmium.
Extended information requirements
The core of the distributor's information obligations remains unaffected. However, some specific rules applying to mail order and thus to internet trading have been amended. Furthermore, producers are now obliged to inform end customers of possible health concerns and environmental damages, e.g. by way of recycling schemes.
Extended and amended labelling requirements
Whilst under the outdated law producers were able to choose between different symbols in order to label batteries, the new Battery Act only allows for one uniform symbol. The limit values for mercury, cadmium and lead – which trigger specific labelling requirements in case they are exceeded – have also been altered. Finally, there is a new obligation concerning capacity labelling.
Reformed recycling obligations
Whereas the producer's obligations to take part in recycling schemes and to take back batteries from the distributors remain in full force and effect, the regulations concerning the recycling schemes' procedures have been reformed. Furthermore, there are now different rules applying to internet sales.
New provisions on the removal of waste batteries
All electrical and electronical devices must now be designed in such a way that waste batteries can be easily removed. However, exceptions apply in specific circumstances, e.g. in connection with medical requirements. In this context, the wording of instruction manuals is now subject to stricter regulations.
New sanctions for non-compliance
Non-compliance with the new provisions constitutes an administrative offence and may lead to administrative fines amounting to EUR 50,000 as of 1 March 2010. In certain cases, the law may even impose an obligation to withdraw the batteries from the market.