Non-replaceable batteries are bad news for the environment and consumer

At a time where Europe claims to be a leader on climate and sustainability, most rechargeable batteries in consumer electronics and e-bikes or scooters are either non-replaceable or non-repairable.
Source: E. Zillner

This results in shorter product lifetimes, increased electronic waste, loss of rare materials, and unnecessary expenditure for consumers. These are some of the findings of a report released today by the European Environmental Bureau, the Right to Repair campaign and researchers at the University of Lund.

Rechargeable lithium ion batteries can be found in most of today’s devices, from smartphones, laptops and tablets to electric bikes and scooters, and estimates show that the demand will continue to grow in the next decade: up to 60% for batteries in consumer electronics and 15% for electric bikes and scooters by 2030.

Battery failure is one of the most common problems for many consumer electronics and often the first component to fail in e-bikes and scooters. 42% of smartphones and 27% of laptops repairs are related to battery replacement.

Yet, between inaccessible design, the use of adhesives, software locks, lack of replacement parts, tools and repair information, many batteries are destined never to be replaced, repaired or recycled.

Chloé Mikolajczak, campaigner at the Right to Repair, said: “This is extremely worrying as the average battery life for these products is around 3 years and the majority of repairers we talked to said that the risk of damaging a device while removing the battery has increased. This suggests that a significant number of devices are being prematurely discarded due to battery failure.”

Meanwhile, ensuring that all new phones and tablets sold in the EU in 2030 have easily removable and replaceable batteries could cut the annual emissions of these devices by 30% compared to business as usual, reduce the loss of critical raw materials like cobalt and indium, and save European consumers €19.8 billion.

On top of the report, a coalition of electronic and battery repairers, the recycling industry and environmental NGOs representing at least 500 organisations published a joint statement today calling on the European Commission to take action for more removable, replaceable and repairable batteries in the forthcoming battery regulation.

Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, Policy Officer for product policy at the EEB, said: “While there are many companies working to replace, repair and recycle batteries from electronics like smartphones and e-bikes, poor product design and software are making this increasingly challenging or impossible. Manufacturers are wasting precious resources and forcing consumers to replace devices before they need to. The European Council and Parliament now negotiating the European Batteries Regulation have the power to address all of these issues.”

The European Commission proposed a “Battery regulation” that aims to tackle the whole lifecycle of batteries from the supply chain to disposal, and is currently in the hands of the European Parliament and Council. The proposal addresses the removability of batteries but overlooks key issues such as light electric vehicles, spare part availability, and software which prevents battery repair.

Download the report


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