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In a move that could have significant implications for Apple and its customers, the European Union is pushing forward with new regulations that would mandate “easily” replaceable iPhone batteries. This development comes after our initial report on the proposed legislation in December, and now the EU parliament has overwhelmingly endorsed the plan.
While this decision signals a clear intent from the EU to prioritize consumer rights and sustainability, there are still lingering questions about the specific impact this will have on Apple and its flagship product.
Under the approved guidelines, “portable batteries” utilized in devices like the iPhone, iPad, and Mac must be designed to enable users to replace them easily. The language in the legislation specifies that consumers should be able to “easily remove and replace” the batteries.
To clarify what constitutes “easily replaceable,” the legislation defines a portable battery as removable by the end-user when it can be taken out using commercially available tools without requiring specialized tools unless those specialized tools are provided free of charge. Additionally, disassembling the battery should not necessitate the use of proprietary tools, thermal energy, or solvents. Commercially available tools, as defined by the EU, are those that can be purchased by any end-user on the market, without any requirement to demonstrate proprietary rights, and can be used with minimal restrictions, excluding health and safety considerations.
The EU’s objective with these regulations is to enhance the sustainability, durability, and performance of batteries. By facilitating easier battery replacements, the EU aims to reduce electronic waste and promote a circular economy where batteries can be reused or recycled effectively.
It’s worth noting that the legislation also encompasses new requirements for batteries used in electric vehicles, along with stricter waste collection targets for portable batteries. Specifically, the EU has set targets of 45% waste collection by 2023, 63% by 2027, and 73% by 2030 for portable batteries. For large mobility batteries, the targets are 51% by 2028 and 61% by 2031.
Furthermore, the legislation outlines minimum levels of materials that should be recovered from waste batteries. The targets include recovering 50% of lithium by 2027 and 80% by 2031. For cobalt, copper, lead, and nickel, the minimum recovery levels are set at 90% by 2027 and 95% by 2031.
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In a bid to bolster the use of recycled materials, the regulation also sets forth minimum levels of recycled content from manufacturing and consumer waste that must be incorporated into new batteries. These targets include 16% for cobalt, 85% for lead, 6% for lithium, and 6% for nickel eight years after the regulation takes effect. After thirteen years, the targets increase to 26% for cobalt, 85% for lead, 12% for lithium, and 15% for nickel.
While the EU’s push for easily replaceable iPhone batteries and stricter regulations overall aims to promote sustainability and reduce electronic waste, the implementation and impact on manufacturers like Apple will undoubtedly require further evaluation. As this legislation progresses, we can expect heightened scrutiny and potential adjustments to ensure a balance between consumer convenience, environmental responsibility, and technological innovation.