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New EU rules could see the return of "easily" replaceable phone batteries

The EU continues to write the rules on how technology companies like Apple and Samsung should make their phones. It now wants batteries in portable devices to be "easily" replaceable.

The proposed requirement comes as part of the EU's push to overhaul its rules on batteries sold in the bloc. The preliminary deal on "new EU rules for design, production and waste treatment" of batteries was agreed upon between the European Parliament and the European Council. It is pending further approval.

The proposal says that three and a half years after the new legislation takes effect, manufacturers will have to design portable batteries in appliances so that "consumers can easily remove and replace" them themselves.

The proposed legislation aims to "build a stronger EU recycling industry, particularly for lithium," according to rapporteur Achille Variati, a member of the European Parliament tasked with handling the legislative proposal. He says the legislation will be "crucial" in ensuring Europe's green energy transition and strategic autonomy.

"These measures could become a benchmark for the entire global battery market," Achille said, noting the EU's role in setting global technology regulation standards.

Aside from phone batteries, the new legislation deals with other types of batteries sold in the EU, including industrial batteries, batteries used in electric cars, and light-mode transportation (LMT) batteries for electric bikes or scooters. It also covers SLI batteries that have a variety of automotive applications, including the ignition of cars.

Move toward circular economy

According to the proposed rules, companies selling batteries in the EU will be required to develop and implement a "due diligence policy" to address the social and environmental risks linked to sourcing, processing, and trading raw materials.

Batteries will also have to carry labels and QR codes with information related to their capacity, performance, and chemical composition, among other things.

Additionally, new batteries sold in the EU will have to contain a certain amount of recycled materials, including 16% for cobalt, 85% for lead, and 6% for lithium and nickel. The rules also set strict waste collection targets to ensure a consistent supply of recycled components, with 73% of electrical device batteries expected to be recycled by 2030.

"For the first time, we have a circular economy legislation that covers the entire life cycle of a product – this approach is good for both the environment and the economy," Variati said.

The world's leading phone brands, Apple and Samsung, have recently launched self-repair services to heed the pressures of the growing "right to repair" movement. It could make the transition to new battery rules in the EU easier for them than adjusting to the bloc's common charger port policy that will soon take effect.

By the end of 2024, all mobile phones, tablets, and cameras sold in the bloc will have to come with a standard USB Type-C charging port. The obligation will extend to laptops from spring 2026.

Both moves are linked to the EU's push for a circular economy and making the bloc climate-neutral by 2050.

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