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EU proposes new battery rules

The European Union (EU) Council of Ministers has agreed in principle to a directive designed to curb environmental damage from the disposal of batteries and accumulators by reducing the volume of mercury they contain and increasing their collection and recycling.

This proposed legislation requires member states to ban products containing more than a specified percentage of mercury, calling for programmes to reduce the heavy metal content of batteries and accumulators and to encourage the separate collection of batteries, a task probably falling to local authorities.

Although the European Parliament has still to have its say on the directive, Council officials said this was likely to differ "only in details."

The main changes so far from the original European Commission proposal is the introduction of a partial ban on portable cadmium batteries, except for those used for emergency and alarm systems, medical equipment and cordless power tools, all subject to tough collection regulations.

In a statement, the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) said it would like all nickel cadmium batteries collected separately and removed from the waste stream.

It added it was difficult to see how this could be monitored or enforced. A combination of different schemes would be needed, though "high collection targets may not be achievable without a significant element of kerbside collections."

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