Smartphone manufacturers are set to face new regulations from the European Union (EU) that will require them to allow users to easily replace their batteries. These stringent rules, recently endorsed by the European Parliament, aim to tackle the mounting issue of electronic waste and could prevent millions of phones from ending up in landfills.
Every year over 150 million smartphones are discarded, contributing to the growing problem of e-waste. The current practice of sealing batteries within the devices makes replacing them so expensive, that it’s simply sometimes cheaper to buy a new one. However, the introduction of these new measures will bring a new era of battery replacement, according to MEP Achille Variati.
“For the first time, we have circular economy legislation that covers the entire life cycle of a product - an approach that is good for both the environment and the economy” Variati explained. “We agreed on measures that greatly benefit consumers: batteries will be well-functioning, safer and easier to remove.”
The EU's new regulations stipulate that consumers must be able to easily remove and replace portable batteries used in smartphones, tablets, and similar devices. This requirement will necessitate significant redesign efforts from manufacturers. The rules also apply to electric vehicles and rechargeable industrial batteries above 2kWh. A carbon footprint declaration, labelling, and digital passports are required for the latter. In addition by 2031, the goal is to collect 61% of waste and recover 95% of materials from old portable batteries. These regulations are slated to come into effect in 2027.
These measures also enable to combat the issue of planned obsolescence. Electronic devices finishing up in landfills are releasing toxic chemicals that pollute the ground and the air. Disposal is also a waste of valuable materials contained in them, such as lithium or cobalt. Many users experience slowing phones, years after they are released, as they are not getting updates after several years. Public opinion is highly against this practice.
The new EU regulations on battery replacements address both the environmental impact of e-waste and the consumer demand for more sustainable and repairable products.