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Debates
Monday, 12 December 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

14. Batteries, accumulators and their waste
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  President. The next item is the recommendation for second reading on the Council common position for adopting a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators and repealing Directive 91/157/EEC (5694/5/2005 – C6-0268/2005 – 2003/0282(COD)) – Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. Rapporteur: Joahnnes Blokland (A6-0335/2005).

 
  
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  Johannes Blokland (IND/DEM), rapporteur. – (NL) Mr President, the report on batteries and accumulators has been adopted by a large majority in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. This Committee is of the opinion that the 41 amendments to this report have changed the Council’s common position for the better. We in the Committee are yet to agree on one key aspect, though, namely the reduction in the use of the heavy metals mercury, cadmium and lead in some batteries.

This House adopted a clear stance in this area at first reading, after which apparently, objections were raised, or should I say, after which the battery producers engaged in some serious lobbying. In order to reach agreement after all, I tabled an amended proposal, namely Amendment 42, which is a watered-down version of the amendment adopted at first reading. I would like to make three points in connection with the restriction of the ban on heavy metals.

First of all, Amendment 42 confines the cadmium ban to portable batteries; the ban does not, therefore, apply to any industrial batteries whatever. The exception made for industrial batteries at first reading proved insufficient for industry, because it believes that an unacceptable number of these batteries would end up in the risk zone. For the sake of clarity, my Amendment 42 takes industrial batteries out of the risk zone completely.

Secondly, thanks to Amendment 42, the ban on lead is also restricted to portable batteries, which means that industrial lead accumulators also completely fall outside of the scope of the ban.

Thirdly, a number of categories of portable batteries are exempt from the ban on lead. This applies to button cells, and batteries for hearing aids are no longer at risk either. We have thereby taken on board the comments made by the Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Fourthly, since the cadmium ban on portable tools has been suspended for four years, this will give us plenty of time to make the complete switch to Li-ion- and NiMH batteries as alternatives to NiCd batteries. These alternatives have been widely available for nearly 10 years.

I have noticed that both the Socialist Group in the European Parliament and the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance have tabled a similar amendment to Article 4, the gist of which I can endorse.

Finally, I should like to turn to three other areas, namely definitions, producer responsibility and batteries integrated in appliances.

With regard to definitions, I take the view that these should be included in an article and not in a recital. That is why I am opposed to Amendments 46, 48 and 50. The Council’s common position remains vague in some aspects of the definition of portable batteries. The phrase ‘portable’ is subjective and the Committee on the Environment would therefore prefer a definition that sets a clear limit. Amendment 12 specifies a maximum weight of 1 kg for portable batteries.

Moreover, Amendment 12 makes the link with consumer applications as defined in the directive on electronic waste. In order to avoid both a loophole and an overlap in the definitions, the Committee on the Environment has proposed in Amendment 13 a mirror definition of portable batteries by way of defining industrial batteries. The Committee on the Environment is of the opinion that Amendments 12 and 13 afford most clarity about those definitions.

As for producer responsibility, I have to say that this is a guiding principle for various other directives as well as for the battery directive. In this respect, I agree with the Council’s common position. In Amendment 44, though, the suggestion of shared responsibility is mooted. This leads, in practice, to much confusion and its implementation is very complex. I take the view that we must uphold producer responsibility and am therefore opposed to Amendment 44.

Amendments 18 and 40 ban the integration of batteries and introduce the requirement that batteries should be easy to remove. This appears to be a good thing on the face of it, but I gather that many applications will get into difficulty as a result, especially if the battery outlives the appliance. Moreover, this provision is superfluous, since the directive on electronic waste already stipulates that batteries should always be removed before electrical appliances are collected.

On behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, I would advise the plenary, while giving due consideration to the remarks I have made, to endorse the amendments to the report tomorrow.

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I would like to thank the European Parliament, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and in particular, the rapporteur, Mr Blokland, for this report.

Today, the existing Community legislation on batteries only covers a small part of all the portable batteries sold annually in the European Union. This has hindered the setting-up of efficient national collection and recycling schemes. Consequently, many batteries placed on the Community market today still risk ending up in the environment, in incineration or in landfills. To address that problem, the Commission presented a new legislative proposal for batteries in 2003 that would extend the scope of existing Community legislation from batteries containing certain dangerous substances to all batteries placed on the Community market.

In its proposal, the Commission introduced the concept of a ‘closed-loop system’, on the basis of which all batteries would have to be collected and recycled and their metals re-introduced into the economic cycle. At the same time, the proposal aimed to contribute to a proper functioning of the internal market for batteries and create a level playing field of all economic operators involved.

At first reading, the European Parliament did not embrace this concept of a closed loop. Instead, Parliament preferred to have a ban on certain heavy metals used in batteries. The Council also considered that the proposed closed-loop system would be difficult to achieve in practice and favoured a ban on the use of cadmium in portable batteries.

The Commission has accepted the overall package of the common position as a well-balanced package, on the condition that the level of environmental protection should not be lowered compared to the policy measures contained in the Commission’s original proposal.

Even though the Commission has embraced the common position as it stands, there are several issues that could benefit from further improvements, in particular regarding the definitions of different battery types and the collection targets. However, the Commission remains convinced that the dual legal basis in the common position is the right approach and will not give rise to problems foreseen by some in Parliament.

I am confident that the rest of the codecision process will allow a further fine-tuning of the right mix of policy measures, which are needed to protect our environment from battery pollution in the most eco-efficient way.

 
  
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  Caroline Jackson, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. Mr President, my group welcomes the batteries directive as an important first attempt to take these potentially environmentally damaging substances out of the waste stream.

Starting first with the collection targets, my group doubts whether there is any point in pretending that many Member States can go further than the collection rate set out in the Council common position. Let us be frank about this: as the Commission impact assessment states, only six Member States currently have a national system of collecting small batteries for recycling – Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland and Sweden. Austria has achieved 40% collection after 14 years. The common position calls for a collection rate of 25% after 6 years and 40% after 10 years. In the context of what we know about the countries that do collect batteries, that seems reasonable.

The report now calls for higher targets: 40% after 6 years and 50% after 12 years. From the point of view of Member States which, for whatever reason, have never given battery recycling a high priority, these totals are unrealistic and, if set, will simply not be reached. This is neither the time nor the place for gesture politics. Delaying the directive by wrangling over unrealistic targets does nobody any good.

Secondly, the rapporteur is moving his Amendment 42, calling for bans on lead and cadmium in power tool batteries. We believe that any such moves need to comply in the first instance with the common approach to impact assessment, recently agreed between the Commission, Council and Parliament. In this instance, Parliament, at my instigation, asked outside experts to draw up an impact assessment, but this was itself limited in its scope. We need a full assessment of the social, environmental and economic impact of any such bans before we agree to introduce them. Until we have that full assessment, it would be irresponsible to follow the rapporteur’s lead, because we would be law-making in the dark.

Finally, as far as the legal base is concerned, we support the proposal that the directive should be based on Articles 175 and 95. We believe that basing this directive on Article 175 alone would run the risk of distorting the market, because individual countries could strengthen the prohibitions contained in it.

I am confident that this directive represents a major change of direction and of public habits for many European countries. We should have turned to specific battery collection long ago. I hope we can now put this proposal into operation as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Åsa Westlund, on behalf of the PSE Group. (SV) Mr President, because our shadow rapporteur, Mr Jørgensen, cannot be in the Chamber today, it is I who have the pleasure of speaking on behalf of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. I wish to begin by thanking Mr Blokland for his very constructive work. He has tabled many amendments supported by our group.

Battery use is increasing more and more, and it is therefore that much more pressing a matter to react now in order to ensure that the most environmentally friendly technology is used and that those batteries that are most dangerous to the environment are banned and phased out. That is why we are well disposed to the proposal before us, even though we believe that the level of ambition should be higher than that proposed by the Council. The use of the heavy metals mercury, cadmium and lead in batteries must be limited as far as possible. Parliament must therefore tighten up the Council proposal now before us.

Cadmium, mercury and lead are already banned in materials and vehicle parts marketed after 1 July 2003, as well as in new electrical and electronic equipment etc marketed after 1 July 2006. It is therefore quite natural that we should now go further in banning the use of cadmium in batteries. It is particularly important that the exemption relating to cadmium in batteries and accumulators used in hand tools be changed into a ban after a four–year transitional period. There are sound alternatives to using cadmium in such tools. I have one here in my hand (sound of a hand tool), and – as I hope everyone can hear – it works splendidly. You only have to take a closer look at it in order not to swallow what the lobbyists in the corridors are trying to delude you into believing.

There are practical alternatives, produced by quite a few manufacturers. These include not only tools for private use but also heavy-duty tools for professional use. Be in no doubt about this. You only have to go onto the manufacturers’ own websites to see for yourselves. Why should we release a whole lot of cadmium unnecessarily? Why should we not demand that the most environmentally friendly alternatives be used? A ban on the use of cadmium in the batteries for these tools would produce great environmental benefits. Moreover, it is important for European competitiveness that when the time is ripe - as it really is now - we boost the development of new technology through legislation on environmentally friendly technology.

We also think that the collection targets proposed by the Council have been set too low. We wish to raise these, and we think, just like the rapporteur, that it is the legal base constituted by Article 175 that has to apply in this draft legislation because the legislation is aimed precisely and solely at bringing about a better environment.

 
  
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  Holger Krahmer, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (DE) Mr President, I would like to concentrate on the three core aspects of this directive, those being its legal basis, the ban on cadmium, and the collection targets. This directive has as its priority objective the reduction and avoidance of waste batteries, but we cannot overlook the fact that it is also an example of product-oriented legislation for the internal market. The fact that it has Article 175 as its sole legal basis could result in varying standards and hence in distortions of competition and of the market. It is for that reason that the Liberals support Articles 95 and 175 as a dual legal basis, and in so doing we are doing as the Legal Affairs Committee has recommended. In both the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Council, a ban on cadmium and mercury was adopted only in relation to portable batteries. Our group is not in favour of there being any further bans on marketing or of the ban on cadmium being extended to, for example, tools without cables or medical equipment.

The example of power tools is always being quoted, and I will say now, particularly for the benefit of Mr Schlyter and also Mrs Westlund, that there are of course alternatives to nickel-cadmium available for those, but every kind of technology has its advantages and disadvantages. In the case of rechargeable batteries and accumulators, which amount in any case to only a very small quantity of waste, we have to consider other characteristics as well, such as energy efficiency, useful life and, of course, the price that the consumer has to pay for them. The presence of an alternative on the market does not necessarily mean that it is an adequate substitute. The actual amount of cadmium that we in Europe absorb through our environment is considerably below the level regarded by the WHO as harmful to health, and it is worth noting that only about one per cent of it comes from batteries.

Let me conclude by considering the collection targets. The Council is not aiming very high with its targets of 25% after six years and 45% after ten, but it has to be said that the 40% and 60% respectively on which we agreed in the Committee are not realistic; the quotas in some Member States are under 10%. In Germany, over ten years of all-out effort have enabled us to achieve 35%. It follows that it is important that we review the collection targets in six years’ time and, in so doing, learn from the experience and best practice in the Member States.

Finally, I would like to emphasise that all stakeholders bear a responsibility for this; while we must not dump the costs of collection on the retail trade, we do have to oblige traders to collect!

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (SV) Mr President, thank you, Mr Blokland, for trying to improve this proposal. It is about an environmental issue, and Article 175 is the natural legal base. It is also about consumers and the confidence they can have in the products they buy. I therefore want to see Amendment 38 on guaranteed capacity labelling applied to all batteries.

I have these two items with me today. On this one (holds up a blue powered screwdriver), it was impossible to see from the packaging how long the batteries would last. It was, however, possible to do so on this one (holds up a red powered screwdriver). This screwdriver (blue screwdriver) contains nickel cadmium, while this one (red screwdriver) contains nickel metal hydride. This blue one only manages to put in this many screws (holds up a board with screws in it), with each screw representing ten screws. The red nickel metal hydride screwdriver managed to put in all these screws – more than twice as many. That is not, however, something one could have known when buying this one.

This is a case of consumers’ being sold poor and old-fashioned technology by companies that are at present duping them. When products are not labelled, consumers are duped even more. I am not the only one to have carried out this test. Swedish consumer organisations have looked at nickel metal hydride batteries after 500 chargings. What, then, we are concerned with here are lifespan and economy, its being apparent that these batteries last on average more than twice as long after 500 chargings.

Why should Europe lag behind in terms of technology transfer? What kind of export market are we to have with poor, old-fashioned technology? It is time to dump nickel cadmium and time to vote in favour of Amendment 54.

The industry says that nickel cadmium batteries are necessary in these types of machine. The best machine on the market is capable of being used for a maximum of 18 minutes and 20 seconds as opposed to 2 minutes and 45 seconds. It is new battery technology that benefits the consumer and is good for the environment. In contrast, old technology makes things worse for consumers and the environment.

Seventy-five per cent of all refined cadmium is, in actual fact, used in batteries. This is a small portion of the total amount of cadmium. Other use of cadmium is not, however, intentional. It is a side effect that we must deal with and eliminate in other ways. What we are concerned with at present is batteries, and cadmium in batteries needs to be got rid of.

 
  
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  Urszula Krupa, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group (PL) Mr President, the process of storing and releasing energy requires the presence of many metals and toxic compounds that play a part in the functioning of batteries and accumulators. Batteries constitute a particularly hazardous category of municipal waste, since many of their components have an adverse impact on both the environment and human health. The binning of billions of spent batteries, which then end up in municipal landfills and in groundwater, represents a particular threat when they contain cadmium, lead or mercury.

Battery collection schemes have been a success in several Member States thanks to diverse and long-standing endeavours. Poland is starting from a much less advantageous position where such collections are concerned, however, as it is less advanced in terms of technology and information provision. This situation is aggravated by the fact that manufacturers and distributors prefer to pay a product fee rather than to take steps to collect and recycle batteries. Thanks to the efforts of environmentalists, containers for spent batteries can now be found in many institutions, and even more progress has been made with the collection of accumulators.

The amendments to the Directive ensure that any negative impact of batteries and accumulators on the environment is kept to a minimum, as well as prohibiting the use of cadmium and mercury. At the same time, however, some of the changes could make accumulator manufacturers in the EU much less competitive than manufacturers outside Europe who do not have to comply with such restrictive regulations. This will mean not only lower-quality batteries and accumulators, but also lower prices. The end result of this could be a threat to the environment and to the health of users, in particular young children.

 
  
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  Irena Belohorská (NI). (SK) The primary aim of this directive is to minimise the negative impact of batteries and accumulators and their waste, in order to help protect the environment and improve the quality of the environment. I would like to thank the rapporteur for raising this issue and for producing the report.

The primary emphasis of the directive should be on the stimulation and development of research for suitable substitutes, not on the restrictive prohibition of batteries containing dangerous substances, such as lead, nickel, cadmium, or zinc. Our decision must be based on scientific knowledge, and we should carefully consider the consequences before taking it.

It is not sensible to rely on mass as the sole indicator of restriction, and simply to ignore the issue of battery use. We need to know what constitutes the greatest risk: using a hazardous battery or removing it from circulation. As an example of this, consider the batteries used in aircraft safety lighting or lift safety systems, both of which would be prohibited under the current proposals.

We should focus our attention on collecting all used batteries and on raising public awareness. We must improve the current figures for used battery collection in EU Member States, which are truly alarming. Our best contribution to the protection of the environment would be to make people realise that batteries are not ordinary waste.

Finally, I would like to voice an opinion on the issue of legal basis. Of course, it is necessary to protect the environment, but reliance on Article 175 as the sole legal basis may lead to unfair competition through the application of different legal standards in different Member States. In my view a dual legal basis would combine both objectives: the protection of the environment and the free and unrestricted movement of goods.

 
  
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  Péter Olajos (PPE-DE). – (HU) These days our lives are surrounded by accumulators and batteries. As our energy and even renewable energy consumption increases and our mobility requirements escalate, we use an increasing number of accumulators and batteries. Obviously, this is not the problem – the problem is that these materials and technologies often have complex components and often contain toxic substances, as well, which we do not collect or dispose of safely after use. With our current waste material technologies, these substances, when burned or disposed of, will sooner or later find their way into our bodies, accumulate and cause severe diseases. Many countries, including my own, have only started to collect these materials recently, and thus the collection targets proposed by the Commission and Council seem to be realistic. It is another question whether distributors ought to have an obligation to collect, as well, or whether compulsory collection should be restricted to manufacturers only. The latter has proved to be a successful system for the other recyclable materials in our country, but this may obviously be a matter of different waste management practices in each Member State. However, collection is not sufficient – these materials must be recycled, a requirement that involves considerable technology advancement and significant research and development. The current practice of a few Member States in this respect is strongly questionable. My country has not yet managed to set up any accumulator-processing plants, and our accumulators are disposed of in Slovenia and Italy, while Hungary purchases large amounts of lead for its battery and accumulator manufacturing industry. I do not think that this is sustainable, either, and each Member State should have its own facilities not only for collection, but also for disposal. And our task is to encourage technology development and promote the replacement of dangerous substances.

 
  
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  Marie-Noëlle Lienemann (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the European Parliament has wanted the ban on cadmium and the restriction on the use of this heavy material since 1988. With each piece of legislation, such as those relating to end-of-life vehicles or to electric and electronic products, our Parliament has highlighted one basic principle: the use of cadmium must be prohibited, and this product must only remain in those instances where there is no alternative. Ever since the beginning, that has been the substitution principle, the principle underpinning the draft REACH Directive, which mobilised us some time ago.

Like other sectors, the REACH Directive excludes batteries, on the grounds that a suitable directive must precisely enable us to gauge the work done by Parliament. I therefore strongly urge us to apply the substitution principle to batteries containing cadmium. Mr Blokland explained at length the difficulties he had in winning acceptance for an ambitious point of view, and his willingness to make compromises must be welcomed. We support it.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that it should be possible for our Parliament to accept a basic principle. If a technology exists on the market that can offer an alternative to nickel-cadmium batteries or to batteries containing cadmium – be they, for that matter, what are known as portable batteries or industrial batteries – then we must ban cadmium. Mr Blokland tried to list what was already available on the market. There are emerging technologies, particularly nickel-zinc technology for industrial batteries. I therefore call on you to accept Amendment 4, tabled by the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, which proposes that, in the event of an alternative technology for industrial batteries appearing on the market, a revision of the directive be got under way. This seems to me to be the absolute minimum requirement if we are to remain faithful to our environmental ambition and, above all, to the desire to promote technological innovation in the European Union.

 
  
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  Mojca Drčar Murko (ALDE).(SL) Dividing batteries into three categories, as proposed in the common position, seems to me a sensible compromise. Taking into account the fact that some cadmium batteries cannot be replaced at the present time, it would be inadvisable to impose a blanket ban, since some success has been achieved in collecting and recycling certain of them in recent times, particularly industrial versions.

It would be rational, however, to impose a complete ban on portable batteries as it is highly likely that they will end up in landfills. As for the minimum targets for collecting spent batteries and accumulators, for which the target of 25% after six years seems an achievable goal, it strikes me as a sensible suggestion that in the enlarged European Union the feasibility of the second, ten-year target be tested in the meantime. This would be done on the basis of actual experiences going back several years in the 25 countries, among which there are now marked differences in the systems of collection and recycling. To this end we would need to set up a system of verification.

 
  
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  Leopold Józef Rutowicz (NI).   (PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank Mr Blokland, and to underline the enormous significance that a directive on batteries and accumulators and spent batteries and accumulators holds for environmental protection. There are many instances of metals similar to those used in batteries and accumulators being found during tests carried out on people living in environmentally sensitive areas and on the water sources in such areas. By analysing the origin of these metals, it is possible to state conclusively that some of them come from batteries and accumulators that have been deposited in rubbish dumps. Discarded batteries and accumulators take a very long time to decompose. Several problems arise in this connection, such as the following. People underestimate the need to collect batteries, and so they must be made more aware of it. Legal and financial measures must be put in place to promote the collection of batteries, and we must foster a culture in which the public acquires the habit of doing so. Issues relating to organisational matters and to the disposal of these pollutants are further problems. A number of issues that have been raised will only be resolved over time, provided that battery collection schemes continue to be publicised and that improvements continue to be made to collection and disposal systems. In particular, technical progress must be promoted in the field of battery production, in order to ensure that batteries are safe.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Blokland deserves our warm thanks for this good, thorough and careful report for second reading.

The basic problem with batteries and accumulators has nothing to do with the energy they produce, but rather with the materials that they contain – cadmium, lead and mercury. It is a matter of general knowledge that these components are toxic and do the environment no good at all. As I see it, the first priority is recycling rather than management; the next is that they be replaced by less toxic contents wherever this is technically possible. This alteration now further renders harmless, reduces and, to some degree, prohibits these materials and their percentages by weight in batteries of whatever kind. This I regard as the great benefit of this directive.

It has to be admitted that the collection quotas are very high, and the demands made on industry, the general public and the trade very considerable. This is a challenge, and it is one that I regard in an extremely positive light; it will involve putting into practice a learning programme that will get our fellow human beings treating the environment better and becoming more aware of it. Even if it proves impossible to achieve the high quotas everywhere and always, the requirement is evidence of how the European Union leads the world in its awareness of the environment and in the way it treats it. The debate as to whether it makes more sense to define collection targets in terms of weight or number of items strikes me as purely academic.

I have no objection to the joint legal basis using Articles 95 and 175 of the Treaties, or to the Council’s Common Position. Looking at the big picture, the fundamental question that presents itself to my mind is whether the promotion of research and of modern technologies will, over the coming years, enable us to replace many of our conventional batteries with such alternatives as fuel cells. If it does, then this directive, like the materials we have problems with, will have a limited lifespan.

 
  
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  Linda McAvan (PSE). – Mr President, I very much welcome this legislation which, I think, will help clean up our environment. However, I also want to comment on the three key issues that colleagues have commented on, the first of which concerns prohibitions and in particular compromise amendment 42. The problem I have is that it still involves the idea of an automatic ban on nickel cadmium batteries after four years; the Commission is not asked to carry out an impact assessment to see what we should do. I do not agree with an automatic ban. If we are going to ban things, then we should do so in full knowledge.

We should also do things that are proportionate: there is cadmium in our atmosphere but less than 1% is caused by batteries – much more comes from pesticides and other uses – so we must have legislation that is proportionate to what we are trying to achieve. We need a study on this issue before we move to any further legislation. I will support the common position.

As regards the targets, I agree with what speakers have said about realistic targets. There is no point pretending we can automatically run to big leaps forward when in fact only a handful of countries collect batteries at all. We need to get targets down to a level that countries can meet at some point in the future and work out how to get there. Someone pointed out that, after 9 years, Belgium has reached a level of 56% and Austria, after 14 years, still lies somewhere at around 40%.

Finally on the legal base issue, I shall be supporting the rapporteur and the Socialist Group on a legal base, but we have to bang heads together on this issue of Articles 175 and 95 because we have kept coming up against this issue in environmental legislation over the past few months. We should be looking at this and having the legal experts from the three institutions talking about the legal base. We do not want to see legislation on the environment that undermines higher standards in those Member States that choose to have them.

 
  
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  Anne Laperrouze (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, a simple ban on nickel-cadmium accumulators seems appealing to me at first glance, but a more in-depth analysis prompts me to recommend real derogations in terms of the industrial use of these accumulators.

In particular, these accumulators are used in the security and transport sectors – in aeroplanes and trains, for example. These accumulators are much sought-after for their operational reliability in critical conditions, which makes it difficult to introduce alternative products.

The rules are already very strict. The risks connected to the end of life of this type of accumulator are controlled, not least by means of the producers taking responsibility for the collection and recycling of their accumulators.

Ladies and gentlemen, I draw your attention to the definitions adopted by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, which give precedence to the physical characteristics of the battery over the way in which it is used. Certain batteries would therefore, in all likelihood, become de facto casualties of the ban, such as those used in breathing apparatus systems employed in toxic atmospheres, lamps for individual or collective use in the mining sector, and so on.

 
  
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  Frederika Brepoels (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should first of all like to thank Mr Blokland for his very interesting report.

It is obvious that a society without batteries has become unthinkable, and as some Members have already pointed out, the use of batteries is on the increase: worldwide, there is an annual increase of 9%. If we consider the use that consumers like ourselves make of electronics on a daily basis, there is plenty of reason to get all Member States to step up their efforts so as to reduce future environmental risks to a minimum. Clearly, the present directive of 1991 leads to insufficient results in this field, precisely because it does not contain any firm targets for collection and recycling. Moreover, the results are very difficult to compare in the different Member States.

I certainly do not want to keep from you the frequently quoted success story of my own region, Flanders, where the government has, in tandem with this very sector, made huge efforts to set up an efficient collection system, as a result of which no less than 60% of batteries are in fact collected. The key to this success is shared responsibility. Without a well-developed, dense network of collection points, collection targets are unachievable.

As I have already said, I would like to put the case for higher collection percentages, and our committee has, in fact, approved my amendment to that effect. Secondly, I should like to urge all parties involved to take on their share of responsibility. I have tabled a fresh amendment to that effect. Finally, I should like to appeal for legal certainty for the sector, as regards the use of cadmium in both batteries and power tools, for which I propose a transitional period of four years. I hope that many Members will be able to endorse this package.

 
  
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  Anja Weisgerber (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, I would like to start by extending warm thanks to the rapporteur, Mr Blokland, for the work he has done. Important though the protection of the environment is – as one who concerns myself with environmental policy, I have set it as my declared objective – we must find a way of balancing the environment against legitimate business interests. My particular concern today is with the ban on nickel-cadmium batteries in power tools. To ban them outright, whether now or after a transitional period of four years – which is what the rapporteur proposes – would be going too far.

As a substitute for that, I prefer to back the Common Position and Mr Krahmer’s Amendment 45, which make provision for a review of the derogation from the ban for nickel-cadmium batteries in power tools after four and seven and a half years respectively. It would then be considered whether equivalent alternatives existed and whether a ban on nickel-cadmium batteries was reasonable and justified – which, as things stand at the moment, it is not.

While there are already, in many areas, technological alternatives to nickel-cadmium on the market, nickel-metal hybrids being one example, these alternatives cannot as yet be regarded as equivalent to nickel-cadmium, as demonstrated, inter alia, by various differences, for example the fact that the lifetime of nickel-cadmium batteries is longer than that of their nickel-metal hybrid counterparts, and they are less susceptible to faults and defects. Nickel-cadmium batteries can be charged up more quickly and discharge themselves much more slowly when out of use. It is also worthy of note that nickel-metal hybrid batteries do not function when the temperature falls below 10° Celsius.

It is the desire for a consolidated market position that motivates manufacturers to develop more and more new technologies, but a ban at the present time or in four years’ time would be counterproductive, for they would have to change over their production methods to handle a type of technology that is not yet fully developed, while the research and development sector would not be able to come up with financial resources that this would demand. A ban would therefore do nothing to foster innovation in the field of new technologies nor, consequently, anything to benefit the environment either, and we surely cannot want that. I will close by expressing my support for Articles 95 and 175 as a dual legal basis.

 
  
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  Erna Hennicot-Schoepges (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, I should like to congratulate the rapporteur. I believe that the persistent shortcomings in terms of collection are due to the lack of ambition that we sometimes demonstrate. If it is possible to collect batteries in some Member States, then what is stopping the others from increasing their efforts?

Mrs Jackson quoted some figures. She forgot about Luxembourg. In 2001, the country boasted an 89.5% recycling rate. The text submitted to us for adoption refers to a minimum recycling objective per inhabitant per year of 160 grams; in 2004, this proportion stood at 245 grams per inhabitant in Luxembourg. These are the results of a large number of information campaigns and of a great deal of work in the field of prevention and awareness-raising, organised by the Luxembourg Government and by the town councils and supported by the retail sector, which actively participates in the collection efforts.

Mr President, this is indeed proof that collection with a view to recycling is possible, and I do not see why what has been achieved in Luxembourg could not be achieved in other countries. As for replacing cadmium, I believe that Parliament’s final objective should be the substitution principle, although an adjustment period is necessary.

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I will focus now only the amendments relating to three key issues in this file: firstly, the legal basis; secondly, the definitions of ‘portable’ and ‘industrial’ battery types and, thirdly, collection targets.

Firstly, on the legal basis, the preamble and Recital 1 – Amendments 1 and 2: the Commission continues to support the concept of a dual legal basis for this directive as the correct one. This dual legal basis reflects the dual objective of the proposed directive. Indeed, the directive aims at achieving both a high level of environmental protection and contributing to the proper functioning of the internal market. Moreover, it should be noted that the proposed directive specifies that each individual article has only one legal basis.

Indeed, the articles laying down provisions for the environmental protection are based on Article 175 of the EC Treaty. The articles laying down provisions related to the proper functioning of the internal market – namely Articles 4, 5 and 18 of the proposed directive – are based on Article 95 of the Treaty. Consequently, this dual legal basis cannot lead to any legal incompatibilities of procedures.

Secondly, on the definition of the different battery types – Articles 3(3) and (6) and Recitals 8 and 9, Amendments 5, 6, 12 and 13: the definitions of ‘portable’ batteries and ‘industrial’ batteries are important since they determine the scope of the cadmium ban and the type of collection requirements. Therefore, the Commission is of the opinion that definitions should meet the following criteria: they should be clear, they should be workable in practice for the Member States to implement in a harmonised way, and any overlaps or gaps should be avoided.

Taking into account the above, the Commission supports the first two parts of Amendment 12, in particular the introduction of the weight limit for defining portable batteries. However, the Commission does not support the other changes proposed to the definitions of the different battery types – Amendment 12, third part, and Amendment 13.

The Commission welcomes the deletion of the non-exhaustive list of examples in the recitals, which considerably improves the drafting of the legislative act.

Thirdly, I turn to the collection targets – Article 9(2) and (4) and Amendments 26 to 28. The Commission believes that setting collection targets in the proposed directive is necessary: firstly to ensure a minimum level of environmental protection in all Member States and secondly to monitor the efficiency of the national battery-collection schemes. It is important that the collection targets are ambitious in environmental terms, but they should also be achievable, realistic and cost-efficient.

The Commission’s extended impact assessment carefully analysed this issue and came to the conclusion that the collection target of 160 grams or 40% would be the most cost-efficient target, which corresponds with part of Amendment 26.

The appropriateness of an increase in the target in the longer term will be carefully reviewed, as foreseen in Article 20(2)(b) of the proposed directive. In this review, the Commission will take account of technical progress and practical experience gained in Member States. The Commission thus in principle supports Amendment 26 but reserves its opinion on Amendment 56.

The Commission supports the amendment which deletes the possibility for Member States to derogate from the proposed collection targets – the ‘transitional arrangements’. The Commission had proposed this possibility since, in its initial proposal, the collection targets were based on weight per inhabitant. Since the collection targets are now based on sales, it is no longer necessary to provide for this possibility of transitional arrangements.

Since the proposed directive already foresees a review of the long-term targets in Article 20(2)(b), the Commission does not see the need for a specific review obligation to increase the targets by a specific date.

I will give a voting list to the Secretariat, indicating which amendments are and are not acceptable to the Commission. I should like to point out that the Commission reserves its opinion on the additional 18 amendments tabled before the plenary, since more time is needed to fully assess the environmental, economic and social impacts thereof.

I believe that the European Parliament and the Council can now start moving towards agreement on this file. I look forward to an early conclusion of the codecision process so that the directive can be implemented by the Member States and we can achieve a high level of environmental protection in this area.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 12 noon.

Written Statement (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Edit Herczog (PSE). – (HU) In some Member States, such as Hungary, the collection of spent batteries and accumulators may be a newly introduced activity, but at the same time, it is also a long-term environmental protection investment. In order to enable the implementation of the law, collection targets must remain realistic both in terms of time and quantity. Excessively ambitious targets (such as 50-60%) would lead to stipulations that cannot be implemented. Switzerland’s consumer culture needed 12 years to reach the 60% level. In our country, where carbon-zinc batteries still have a 40-50% market share due to poor consumer purchasing power, distributors would be unable to finance, and consumers would be unable to pay the cost of a too vigorously enforced collection. This would not only lead to the liquidation of enterprises and job losses, but it would also boost the already thriving black market battery import, which presents an increasing environmental risk. This means that a law that cannot be complied with would achieve the opposite of its objective. What we need is regulations – even with a potential review within five years – that can ensure the achievement of environmental targets in the long term, and the preservation of jobs in the affected industry and distribution sectors for the next five or ten years.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONYSZKIEWICZ
Vice-President

 
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