In 1998, more than 20 countries required "take-back" and recycling of used batteries. However, a 1999 report found that while a number of countries, such as the Netherlands, require a 90% recovery rate for nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd) rechargeable batteries, none has been able to recover more than 60%. Moreover, as fast as manufacturers can set up a recovery scheme for Ni-Cd's, manufacturers are turning to lithium ion and nickel metal hydride batteries -- not considered "hazardous" and require no take-back in most areas.
Draft amendments to the EU Batteries Directive would require 75% recovery of all household batteries. It would also ban cadmium batteries, which would require costly re-tooling for a number of firms making power tools, camcorders and other small appliances.
Switzerland's law requires advance disposal fees on Ni-Cd batteries, equal to around $0.13 per battery. If a recovery rate of 80% is not achieved within six years, deposits will be required. The most stringent countries in Europe and Asia are implementing takeback requirements for all batteries, even though only ni-cd and lead acid batteries have any genuine toxics in them.
Collection and recovery of batteries is not cheap. US manufacturers pay about $7 million per year for a national collection and public education campaign but manage to collect and recover only a fraction of ni-cd batteries. In 2001, San Francisco passed a resolution recommending new local "producer responsibility" legislation for household batteries, claiming industry has not collected enough volumes in its national recycling programme (and less than 1% in the district).
A number of Latin American countries have moved to ban imports of hazardous wastes under the Basel Ban Amendments – but this is causing some intra-market distortions, according to "Recycling & Solid Waste in Latin America, 2002 Update" published last week by Raymond Communications, Inc. Brazilian companies could not export the material to Argentina for recycling at an authorized Ni-Cd battery recycler because of hazardous wastes import bans under the Basel Convention Amendments. Thus, the batteries must be shipped to France.
The purpose of the tax is to ensure separation of the waste stream of batteries from other domestic waste. Ecotaxes would not be necessary if industry sets up and finances a deposit refund system that enable it to valorize the collected batteries without government intervention.
As fast as manufacturers can set up a recovery scheme for ni-cd's, manufacturers are turning to lithium ion and nickel metal hydride batteries – not considered "hazardous" and require no take-back in most areas.