Sustainable Batteries Responsible Batteries

Working on the sustainable development of the industry and ensuring the high level of environmental and social benefits of batteries is a mission of great value to society.

Sustainable Batteries Responsible Batteries

Working on the sustainable development of the industry and ensuring the high level of environmental and social benefits of batteries is a mission of great value to society.

Sustainable solutions throughout a battery’s lifecycle

Representing a truly responsible battery value chain, it is one of our key priorities to ensure the sustainable development of the European battery industry. High-impact end-of-life management, a long-term supply strategy, safe manufacturing, transport and use of batteries as well as resource and energy-efficient processes and technologies are part of our industry vision. However, the true focus must be on improving the quality of life – for everybody, everywhere. RECHARGE, hence, advocates a holistic approach to product stewardship, combining the multifold efforts of legislators and industry.

Raw Materials

Batteries contain dozens of different materials, from highly abundant sodium and carbon, to scarce cobalt and copper. Sourcing locations comprise the Americas, Europe, Africa, Russia as well as Asia Pacific. A responsible sourcing culture is critical to meeting increasing demand while remaining a true alternative to conventional energy generation and storage.

While primary raw materials will always play an important role, the European battery industry has developed a strong waste treatment sector to increase the contribution of secondary raw materials to the materials mix. At the very same time, continuous improvements are made in materials and applications technology as well as in mining to enhance resource efficiency further and to lower the dependence on primary raw material sourcing.

Materials Handling

To allow for the electro-chemical reactions required to generate battery electricity, battery technologies make use of different substances. Some of these substances are considered hazardous when released into the environment. While the European industry heavily invests in material research and innovation, there are technical limitations to what can be substituted.

Albeit hazardous substances are used in batteries, they do not represent a health or environmental risk. That is because they are contained in the battery within sealed units, designed to prevent substances from being released during normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use – and damage.

First-class material handling practices during the manufacturing and end-of-life phase equally contribute to the safe lifecycle of a battery. So-called dry or white rooms provide for the right setting to control and collect gas emissions, recycle and reuse solvents as well as to filter specks of dust or other potential leakages to the highest applicable standards.

Use Phase

Batteries are designed and manufactured to withstand normal or reasonable, foreseeable conditions of use and damage for a very long time. Both product design and sophisticated electronic management systems prevent batteries from representing health or environmental risks.

Batteries undergo extensive testing before they can be placed on the European market, too. Standard testing includes external short circuit, abnormal charge and forced discharge as well as exposure to heat, projectiles, drops, crush, shock or vibration.

End-of-life Management

Collecting, reusing and recycling used batteries is critical to im­proving resource efficiency, and recovering relevant materials to produce new batteries or other products. What’s more, most batteries contain materials that are often ex­tracted outside of the European Union. To avoid supply chain disruptions and dependence on third countries, and to ensure the highest health, environmental and social standards, waste treatment must be a viable part of a both dynamic and responsi­ble sourcing culture.


With the purpose of protecting the health and environment, batteries, as many other products, are subject to waste management requirements in the European Union. The following regulatory instruments apply today:

  • Batteries Directive 2006/66/EC
  • End-of-life Vehicles Directive 2000/53/EC
  • Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive 2012/19/EU
  • Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC

The interface between these legislations is a challenge and RECHARGE is involved in a series of activities, for example the Chemicals – Product – Waste Legislation interface, to drive harmonization and eliminate overlaps.

The collection of waste batteries is organized through three main directives, the Battery Directive, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive and the End-of-life Vehicles (ELV) Directive.

The Battery Directive regulates the waste management of any type of battery at its end-of-life.

The WEEE Directive regulates electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) – including batteries used in these products. At the time an EEE is considered as waste and dismantled for further treatment, batteries are collected for separate recycling, reuse or repurpose.

Batteries installed in electric vehicles are treated under the ELV Directive until they are dismantled from the vehicle. Once dismantled, they are, too, regulated by the waste management requirements of the Battery Directive.

The Battery Directive hence applies to portable batteries, automotive batteries as well as industrial batteries. However, depending on the type of battery, different waste management obligations exist.

While portable batteries are considered to be a B2C product, industrial and most automotive batteries are B2B products. B2C products can be disposed of at municipal collection points, whereas B2B products underlie a separate take-back obligation by the Producer, or a third party acting on their behalf, and must be disposed of at Authorized Treatment Facilities. Producers must ensure the appropriate recycling of these batteries.

Ensuring that materials remain available for the production of new batteries or other products, is one of the most effective ways towards resource efficiency in our industry. Especially the recovery of high-impact materials brings a true improvement to the environmental and social profile of batteries.

Find here a list of European battery recyclers and the central point of contact for collecting batteries in the EU.


RECHARGE believes in establishing and promoting meaningful environmental impact indicators that are of real value to the user and the overall environmental footprint of our product. As part of our contributions to the PEFCR for advanced rechargeable batteries, RECHARGE has identified the carbon footprint as the most suitable indicator both for environmental profiling as well as the quality (lifetime reference) of a battery. Other environmental impact indicators have proved to be of little relevance or to not be robust enough. For example, because their databases are incomplete, or the calculation is too complex.

Carbon footprint content, calculated based on a PEF methodologyi using harmonized databases, is useful because it is a known indicator for consumers and allows them to identify batteries with a superior environmental profile easier. The carbon footprint also gives the necessary signals to poorly performing industry actors, incentivising them to adopt measurements relevant to improving the carbon profile of their product. Such measurements could be improved product design and longer life duration, more efficient processes, reduced energy needs or the selection of low-carbon energy sources, amongst others. For a thriving, innovative industry it is important to retain the flexibility to choose freely amongst the options, however.

For more, read the full position paper on Batteries Fit For Europe.


A socially sustainable battery value chain, covering all steps from raw materials extraction to battery manufacturing, is a key objective of the European advanced rechargeable battery industry as represented by RECHARGE. This objective is achieved through corporate governance, best practice sharing, regulatory instruments and the implementation of fundamental international conventions to help improve working conditions at all stages of the value chain and to ensure that our human, social, and labour rights are respected at all times.

RECHARGE generally supports the OECD Due Diligence Requirements, applicable for all batteries and battery chemistries put on the EU market. In addition, RECHARGE is calling upon the Commission to extend the scope to human, social, and labour rights along the entire value chain, from raw materials extraction and materials refining to cell and battery/battery pack manufacturing. RECHARGE also supports the use of ISO 14001 (EMS) and ISO 45001 (HSMS) since these are commonly known standards and already applied in many companies. However, the certification of these standards is complex and not suitable for market surveillance. Moreover, these standards are voluntary and do not address human and social aspects well enough to ensure sustainable batteries fit for the high standards of the European market.

Therefore, the legislative environment should encourage industry players to source from supply chains that have fully implemented the four fundamental International Labour Organization (ILO) Principles and Rights at Work.

For more, read the full position paper on Batteries Fit For Europe.


The traceability of information is already required for a substantive amount of data in the industry. Nevertheless, traceability could be improved through harmonisation within a simplified marking. In that sense, a QR code system on the battery itself or a battery passport would be practical tools to allow greater traceability.

Still missing, however, is the traceability of materials, which could impact the environmentally and socially sound manner in which those materials are extracted, refined, and manufactured. Here as well, a QR code system, battery passport or more innovative technologies such as blockchain could be introduced.

Traceability is also needed in the end-of-life phase of batteries or battery-powered products. In that perspective, the traceability of exported end-of-life vehicles (and possibly associated batteries) should be improved. The aim is to increase the pressure to improve environmental and social performance along the value chain.

For more, read the full position paper on Batteries Fit For Europe.


Ensuring that materials remain available for the production of new batteries or other products, is one of the most effective ways towards resource efficiency in our industry. Especially the recovery of high-impact materials brings a true improvement to the environmental and social profile of batteries.

Why secondary raw materials?

  • The recovery of battery-relevant materials is often more energy efficient than the production of primary materials.
  • Today’s advanced rechargeable batteries use up to 3 times less materials than previous generations.
  • Batteries contain materials that will be increasingly required in the future, as the electrification of society advances. Recycling is a sustainable mean to meet materials demand.
  • Investing today in the recovery of key materials is investing in stable raw materials supply in the future.
  • Given limited battery resources in Europe, recycling must be a viable part of a European sourcing culture.

Professional collection schemes in each Member State and the development of markets for secondary raw materials must be supported.

For more, read the full position paper on Batteries Fit For Europe.


Batteries can, under certain conditions, be suited for refurbishment for second life use or repair. However, safety must be a key criterion for defining this suitability. Avoiding unnecessary safety risks is of great importance. For this reason, untrained personnel should not be encouraged to handle batteries. Batteries, as electro-chemical devices carefully designed to meet the needs of a specific application, should only be handled by qualified professionals. The design of large batteries is complex, and the safety relies on the combination of mechanic, electric, and electronic protections, applied – and tested according to mandatory UNECE – to each battery level (cell, module, pack). In this context, large batteries should never be dismantled below the level of safe units, except if the remanufacturer has access to publicly available battery information (such as State Of Health) and the technically required information for design safety (either based on the original OEM information, or indepth expertise of the battery). For a well-functioning repair and refurbishment sector, policy-makers will have to work on the right legal framework to resolve open questions regarding the transfer of liability, Extended Producer Responsibility and warranty claims, too.

For more, read the full position paper on Batteries Fit For Europe.