Primary batteries have a role to play in the European Green Deal
Since 2006, the environmental impact of primary batteries has even further decreased by implementing the collection obligation as set in the Batteries Directive 2006/66/EC. All waste primary batteries brought to a collection point are effectively recycled. The European Commission is currently reviewing the Batteries Directive 2006/66/EC with a main focus on environmental sustainability. During the discussions, measures leading to a restriction or even a ban of primary batteries are being considered. To further drive eco-efficiency, promote safety and avoid unnecessary waste, EPBA proposes setting minimum durability and performance parameters, or in other words, a Battery Quality Standard to raise the level of products placed in the EU market. The IEC standard 60068-2 (Physical and electrical specifications of primary batteries) can be a good starting point for these discussions. This could also be used to look into stricter health and safety aspects such as requirements for leakage prevention.
The most environmentally sustainable solution for low drain applications
Different LCAs confirm that primary batteries are more environmentally sustainable for low drain applications (i.e. applications requiring lower power levels) than rechargeable batteries. The lower and more efficient discharge level of primary batteries combined with the need for repeated recharging of rechargeables makes primary batteries the best choice for low drain devices since these require lower power levels. Half of today’s market for appliances is focused on miniature, portable, lightweight, low drain applications and the prospects point to continued growth on this segment. On average a household (195 million in EU) has 23,9 battery-powered devices. Furthermore, many applications exist, which are not suitable for recharging due to technical constraints like accessibility, as well as physical constraints like high temperature (e.g. smart agriculture) and explosive atmosphere (oil and gas industry). Additionally, there are a lot of military applications mandatorily using primary cells like ASW-sonar buoys.
Primary Batteries are not single use products
Comparing primary batteries with everyday single use product like certain plastics where no organised collection and recycling infrastructure exists underestimates the complexity and technology behind the product as well as its importance to a number of essential applications and sectors. Primary batteries are energy sources and they can be used many times in one or even in multiple devices until their end of life. Using the term “single use batteries” is highly misleading because in numerous applications they provide power for up to two decades without being replaced or recharged.