Many electrical and electronic devices run partly or even exclusively on batteries. Sooner or later, the batteries need replacing, in some cases along with the device in which they were used. When this happens, it is important that the heavy metals which are present in batteries and accumulators should not have any negative effect on human health or the environment.
The Directive 2006/66/EC of 6 September 2006 regarding batteries, accumulators as well as discarded batteries and accumulators, which is better known as the battery directive, was introduced within the European Union in 2002 to counter these effects and to withdraw Directive 91/157/EEC. The use of mercury, cadmium and lead was restricted.
Appliances must be designed to ensure that used-up batteries and accumulators can easily be removed. For appliances with built-in batteries, the user instructions must clearly indicate how the batteries can be removed. It must also be made clear exactly what type the batteries are.
Furthermore, the capacity must be indicated on all portable and automotive batteries. The capacity of secondary batteries is usually expressed in ampere hours (Ah) and determines how long a battery will last. The higher the capacity, the longer you can use it under specified circumstances. For primary batteries (non-rechargeable), the capacity is expressed in the number of hours of use for a number of specific applications for which the battery is most suitable.
In addition to these legal obligations for the producers, the consumers can also contribute towards this.
What can you do?
- Separate collection
If the crossed-out wheeled bin symbol appears on a battery or accumulator, this means that it must be collected separately. Visit www.bebat.be for more information about the collection of batteries.
If they are burned, batteries may release substances which are harmful to man and the environment. Because of this, they definitely do not belong in the household waste, but with small hazardous waste. It is best to hand in batteries in good time rather than leave them lying around.
Both primary (non-rechargeable) and secondary (rechargeable) batteries contain materials which are still very useful. Producers which collect separately sorted old batteries can extract these substances from them and reuse them.
- Limit your use
However, as a consumer you can do even more to make your use of batteries safe for yourself and others and environmentally friendly. The first point is that mains electricity is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the power we get from batteries, so the message is that we should use batteries as little as possible. This automatically means less hazardous waste.
- Use rechargeable batteries
As far as possible, you should also use rechargeable batteries. These are more expensive but last much longer, so that the extra you spend on them is quickly made back. They can be recharged up to a thousand times. This long product life makes them more eco-friendly than non-rechargeable primary batteries, as fewer batteries need to be produced, meaning that less raw materials are needed and less waste is generated. Wherever you can, use rechargeable batteries of the NiMH (nickel-metal hybrid) type. The latest generation holds its charge longer, so that such batteries last longer. You can often recognise them from the description “low self-discharge”. The new Li-Ion (lithium ion) batteries have the advantage of not experiencing a "memory effect". These batteries maintain the same capacity, even after being recharged several times. However, these batteries are more expensive than the NiMH batteries. Currently, nearly all built-in batteries of laptops, mobile telephones and other electronics are of the Li-ion type. A non-rechargeable battery is only best for appliances which use a very small amount of power, such as a clock or calculator.
If a battery no longer provides enough power for an MP3 player or camera, it can often carry on being used for a while in an alarm clock or remote control. It is also best to remove the batteries if an appliance will not be used for a long time. This is better for the appliance and for the battery.