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Battery Act Statute, Requirements & Enforcement

The Statute

Acknowledging the steady increase in the use of rechargeable batteries, as well as potential environmental impacts from their improper disposal, the U.S. Congress passed the Battery Act in 1996 to promote the collection and recycling or proper disposal of used nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries, used small sealed lead-acid (SSLA) batteries, and certain other regulated batteries; educate the public about recycling and disposal of regulated batteries; and establish uniform national labeling requirements for regulated batteries. The Battery Act was also passed to limit the mercury content in some consumer batteries and prohibit the sale in the United States of certain consumer batteries that contain added mercury. The goals of the Battery Act falls under two separate titles, Title I: Rechargeable Battery Recycling Act, and Title II, Mercury-Containing Battery Management Act. The Act targets battery and product manufacturers and battery waste handlers – not consumers.

Diagram: Battery Act Statutory Components


Components of the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act (Battery Act)

Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act of 1996 (P.L.104-142)

Implementation of Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act (11/97) (EPA 530-K-97-009) (PDF, 8489.1KB, 21 pages)


The Goals of the Battery Act:

To phase out the use of mercury in batteries and provide for the efficient and cost-effective collection and recycling or proper disposal of used nickel cadmium batteries, small sealed lead-acid batteries, and certain other batteries, and for other purposes.


Main Features of the Battery Act:

  • To establish national, uniform labeling requirements for Ni-Cd and certain small sealed lead-acid (SSLA) rechargeable batteries

  • To mandate that Ni-Cd and certain small sealed lead-acid (SSLA) rechargeable batteries be "easily removable" from consumer products. A battery can be easily removed if it is detachable or removable from the product with the use of common household tools.

  • To make the Universal Waste Rule effective immediately in all 50 states for the collection, storage, and transportation of batteriescovered by the Battery Act.

  • To require EPA to establish a public education program on battery recycling and the proper handling and disposal of used batteries. EPA is required to consult with manufacturers and retailers to carry out this initiative.

  • To prohibit, or otherwise condition, the sale of certain types of mercury containing batteries (i.e. alkaline-manganese, zinc-carbon, button cell mercuric-oxide, and other mercuric oxide batteries) in the United States

Battery Act Regulations

The Agency has not yet developed regulations for implementing the Battery Act. EPA has the authority to enforce most of the provisions of the statute without regulations.

Section 5 of the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act (Battery Act) addresses EPA's enforcement authority. Section 7 also allows states to adopt and enforce and enforce standards and requirements identical to those imposed by the Battery Act. Except for the provision relating to the easy removability and environmental labeling requirements under Section 103(d) and requirements for implementing the Universal Waste Rule under Section 104 allows the states to enact and enforce more stringent standards and requirements compared to the Battery Act.



Battery Act Enforcement

EPA may issue an administrative order to any person who violates the Battery Act. The order may impose a civil penalty also require compliance. EPA may also bring a civil action against persons who fail to comply with an order issued under the Act. The Act restricts enforcement against retailers for offering an unmodified battery or product that was purchased ready for sale and sold, offered for sale, or offered for promotional purposes. This exemption does not apply to the initial manufacturer or other persons who modify or sell such batteries to a retailer. If the retailer is an importer of batteries who sells them knowing that they contain materials prohibited under the Act, EPA may also take enforcement action against that retailer.

  • Who must comply with the Battery Act?

Battery and product manufacturers and battery waste handlers – not the consumers.

  • What are the penalties for noncompliance?

EPA may impose a penalty of no more than $10,000 for each violation of the Battery Act.

EPA publishes the "Enforcement Alert" Newsletter, an informational publication, that is intended to inform and educate the public and regulated community about important environmental enforcement issues, recent trends, and significant enforcement actions. The information contained in each issue should help the regulated community anticipate and prevent violations of federal environmental laws and the applicable regulations that could otherwise lead to enforcement actions. New issues are published on an irregular basis, as EPA see the need to provides alerts on enforcement concerns. Past issues of an Enforcement Alert have highlighted such Battery Act enforcement concerns as:

"The 'Battery Act' -- Law Creates Public Health, Environmental Safeguards Through Phase Out of Mercury Batteries and Other Important Requirements" Volume 5, Number 2 (March 2002) (EPA 300-N-02-002) (PDF- 61KB, 4 pages)

Complete Listing of Enforcement Alerts

Other Federal Laws and Regulations Relating to Battery Management

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA)
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act consists collectively of the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965 (SWDA) and the subsequent amendments to it. It was passed to eliminate the problem of solid and hazardous waste and its potential risks to human health and the environment. It placed controls on the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste, as well establishing a framework for the management of non-hazardous waste. Additionally, it sets forth statutory authorities and liability for owners and operators of facilities that fail to comply with the statutory and regulatory requirements. Universal waste, that includes certain batteries, are controlled under Subtitle C, Hazardous Wastes, Subpart 273.

Both the U.S. Department of Transportation and EPA, under RCRA, regulate the transportation of hazardous waste and hazardous materials which includes certain batteries. State Departments of Transportation are primarily responsible for enforcement through their own laws and regulations. Two of the most important aspects are the proper labeling and placarding of materials being shipped.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), also know as "Superfund"
CERCLA was enacted address the problems of hazardous waste found at inactive or abandoned sites or those resulting from spills that require emergency response.

Information on the other federal hazardous waste laws and regulation can be found in the Office of Solid Waste's Laws, Regulations, and Policies section which lists documents and other information organized by subject.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
OSHA regulates employee exposure to hazardous chemicals in the workplace. RCRA hazardous waste generators and transportation, storage and disposal facilities (TSDFs) may need to comply with OSHA training and planning standards (e.g., 29 C.F.R. 1910.1200, 29 C.F.R. 1910.120, 29 C.F.R. 1910.38); RCRA hazardous waste operations and RCRA corrective action activities at generator facilities and TSDFs also may need to comply with health and safety training requirements, as do CERCLA remediations (site cleanups).


State Laws and Regulations Relating to Battery Management

Prior to enactment of the federal Battery Act, several states had their own laws and regulations to facilitate the collection and recycling of used rechargeable batteries. These laws required that rechargeable dry cell batteries be labeled as recyclable and be easily removable from consumer products. Although somewhat similar, there were slight differences in the laws and regulations from state to state. Because of this, the federal law was written so that it takes precedence over state laws governing battery management.

The Universal Waste Rule, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), however does not automatically apply in each state. In states authorized by EPA to implement the federal hazardous waste program, the rule is not applicable until those states have revised their programs to adopt equivalent requirements under state law and receive authorization from EPA.

The following link on the EPA Office of Solid Waste site links to the EPA Regional and state environmental regulatory sites. State regulations and requirements for most states are available.

EPA Regional, State and Territory Web Sites

The Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) maintains another site that has links to state and state environment agency web sites. The association is a group that enhances and promotes effective state and territorial waste management and that affects the national waste manage practices. ASTSWMO provides an important interface between the state and federal programs and the policies that are developed.

State and State Environmental Agency Web Sites Graphic: Exit EPA and Disclaimer




Other Information Sources

Battery Type Identification: There are numerous commercial sites on the web, accessed through a search for "Batteries", show pictures of the various types of batteries and identify the type of battery and the energizing metal.

EPA's Press Release: Recyclable Rechargeable Batteries (08/19/98)
EPA Information on Product Stewardship - Battery Recycling
EPA Universal Waste Information


Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act

Statutes, Regulations, Enforcement

Enforcement Programs

Enforcement Priorities

Environmental Requirements

Cases and Settlements


 




 



 

For related information you may wish to visit our other Enforcement sites

Civil Enforcement - Taking legal action to bring polluters into compliance with environmental laws
Cleanup Enforcement - Getting those responsible for hazardous waste sites to either clean them up or reimburse EPA for the cleanup
Criminal Enforcement - Bringing stringent criminal sanctions against the most serious environmental violators

 
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