What has happened? This July, the German Federal Council approved, with changes, an amendment to the German Batteries Act (Batteriegesetz, “BattG”) suggested by the German cabinet. The bill became necessary, as the current German system of battery take-back was no longer sustainable. The legal structure imposed an unfair burden upon GRS Batterien, Europe’s largest collection scheme, which became increasingly financially unattractive and was therefore abandoned by many battery manufacturers who set up their own take-back schemes.
The new Batteries Act aims to set a level playing field. In addition, it introduces a registration obligation for anyone placing batteries on the German market and it transposes certain new requirements under the amended Waste Framework Directive into German law.
What it means for you
The reform of the German Batteries Act will entail, in particular, new obligations for anyone who places batteries on the German market. It is important to understand that while the Batteries Act imposes such obligations on “manufacturers”, this term, in the meaning of the law, does not only comprise battery producers, but also importers, authorized representatives of non-EU-based producers and even distributors and resellers of batteries, provided no one else has properly registered as manufacturer of the batteries they sell.
The most relevant aspects of the draft bill are as follows:
- In the future, anyone who places batteries on the German market must previously register as “manufacturer” with the “Foundation EAR” (Stiftung Altgeräte-Register). This obligation replaces the current, less burdensome, mere notification obligation with the Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt, “UBA”).
- The registration process will be administered by “Foundation EAR”, which is already responsible for the administration of all registrations of manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment under the German law implementing the WEEE Directive. Stiftung EAR’s electronic database will be extended to also allow the registration of battery “manufacturers”. Companies that are already registered as manufacturers of EEE may amend their current registration to also cover batteries. According to the Federal Government, around 60% of manufacturers should be able to benefit from synergy effects between batteries and WEEE administration.
- Manufacturers which are not established in the EU must appoint an authorized representative established in the EU in order to be able to place batteries on the German market.
- The amended Batteries Act abolishes the current non-profit Common Collection System and replaces it by the requirement for each manufacturer to set-up and operate its own take-back system, which must be approved by the competent authority. Manufacturers may join a system which is operated by multiple manufacturers or by a third party on their behalf.
- Finally, the draft bill transposes into national law certain minimum requirements for extended producer responsibility schemes as adopted by the amended Waste Framework Directive. These minimum requirements include, for example, that manufacturers have the necessary financial and organizational means to meet their take-back obligations under the amended Batteries Act.
Actions to take
The above-described changes will require amendments in the supply chain activities of companies placing batteries on the German market. These range from the mandatory requirement to set up or join a manufacturers’ take-back scheme, to register with Stiftung EAR and, in case of a non-EU manufacturer, to appoint an authorized representative. Distributors and resellers will have to make sure that the batteries they market have been duly registered – or they will become, by operation of law, responsible for any non-compliance under the new Batteries Act.
To be sure, the draft bill still has to pass the German Bundestag, which is expected for September.