The EU has been making new user and environment-friendly legislations left and right. It has recently passed a law that mandates manufacturers to equip all devices with the USB Type-C port on all portable electronics starting at the end of 2024, and it’s also pressuring lawmakers to accept another law that could force companies like Apple to allow sideloading, and open up ecosystems for a fairer, and more equal playground for all players.
The new provisional agreement by the EU would require companies to make user-replaceable batteries a thing again. The motive behind the push of this move is to reduce e-waste, and it’s strongly driven by environmental concerns. The EU wants to become more sustainable and reduce its carbon footprint, and it wants to bring back user-replaceable batteries, or at least, make them easier than they are now.
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The agreed rules will cover all battery types sold in the EU, including portable batteries, SLI batteries (supplying power for lighting, ignition, and starting for vehicles), light means of transport (LMT) batteries (providing power for the traction to wheeled vehicles such as bikes), and electric vehicles (EV).
The regulation would also introduce new measures, such as collecting batteries, and recovering materials from them, such as cobalt, lead, lithium, and nickel, that could be reused to make new batteries. Furthermore, the collection of the batteries would cost no money to consumers, and companies would be required to deal with collecting them.
- “Collection targets are set at 45% by 2023, 63% by 2027 and 73% by 2030 for portable batteries, and at 51% by 2028 and 61% by 2031 for LMT batteries;
- Minimum levels of recovered cobalt (16%), lead (85%), lithium (6%) and nickel (6%) from manufacturing and consumer waste must be reused in new batteries;
- All waste LMT, EV, SLI and industrial batteries must be collected, free of charge for end-users, regardless of their nature, chemical composition, condition, brand or origin;
- By 31 December 2030, the Commission will assess whether to phase out the use of non-rechargeable portable batteries of general use.”
The new batteries would require to carry new labels and QR codes that contain information about the batteries, including their capacity, performance, durability, chemical composition, and a “separate collection” symbol.
Rapporteur Achille Variati (S&D, IT) said: “For the first time, we have circular economy legislation that covers the entire life cycle of a product – this approach is good for both the environment and the economy. We agreed on measures that greatly benefit consumers: batteries will be well-functioning, safer and easier to remove. Our overall aim is to build a stronger EU recycling industry, particularly for lithium, and a competitive industrial sector as a whole, which is crucial in the coming decades for our continent’s energy transition and strategic autonomy. These measures could become a benchmark for the entire global battery market.”
Sustainability, repairability & fair playground
Source: Pocketnow, Illustration by Roland Udvarlaki
The EU has been making many new provisional and legislative decisions in the past five years that help consumers. The new laws made it easier to charge devices and use a standard that’s accepted by all players in the industry, although this is yet to take effect with companies such as Apple. The new move could be game-changing, and it could see user-replaceable batteries reintroduced on the market after they were slowly phased out over the years.
Currently, there are only a few dozen modern devices on the market that offer user-replaceable batteries, and the latest to join the club is the Samsung Galaxy XCover 6 Pro. Most of these devices target people who require more rigid and durable devices for work and often lack high-end performance, power, and additional features.
It’s also worth mentioning that the introduction of foldable devices has further complicated the use of replaceable batteries, which often contain two cells, one on the top or left side, and another on the bottom or right side, depending on the form factor. Foldables are already fragile, and it remains to be seen how this could make them more repairable and environment friendly, It’s also worth pointing out that modern smartphones are no exception, as they often lack pull tabs, and require the back glass to be replaced to reach the batteries and other components inside devices.
Samsung Galaxy XCover6 Pro
The Samsung Galaxy Xcover 6 Pro is the latest rigid smartphone from the company to offer a durable shell, replaceable battery, and programmable buttons. It’s powered by the Snapdragon 778 5G chip, and it has a 6.6-inch LCD 120Hz display and a 50MP dual-camera setup.