Smartphone manufacturers make their batteries hard to replace. Tough new EU rules will change that.
The European Union will soon require smartphone manufacturers to let users replace their batteries.
The tough new rules – endorsed by the European Parliament this week – could save millions of phones from landfill.
Every year, more than 150 million smartphones are thrown away. Making batteries more easy to replace could stem this deluge of e-waste.
Existing phones seal away batteries within the tablet, meaning replacing them can be nearly as expensive as buying a new phone.
The new measures will help break that cycle of rampant consumption, MEP Achille Variati declared.
“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,” he said.
“We agreed on measures that greatly benefit consumers: batteries will be well-functioning, safer and easier to remove.”
What are the EU’s new rules?
Under the legislation, consumers must be able to “easily remove and replace” portable batteries used in devices such as smartphones, tablets, and cameras.
This will necessitate a significant redesign.
The smartphone replacement rules are part of a broader system of rules.
All electric vehicle and rechargeable industrial batteries above 2kWh will need to have a compulsory carbon footprint declaration, label, and digital passport.
The parliament also passed new targets for collecting waste and recovering materials from old batteries.
By 2031, 61 per cent of waste must be collected and 95 per cent of materials must be recovered from old portable batteries.
The rules will come into force in 2027.
What is planned obsolescence and why is it a problem?
Mobile phones sit in landfill, leaching toxic chemicals into groundwater and contaminating soil.
These take years to decompose. Worse still, these dead phones are a terrible waste of precious metals like cobalt and lithium.
Such metals have to be mined – often with hugely destructive consequences for local communities and ecosystems. As the renewable transition increases demand for batteries, reducing unnecessary pressure on existing stocks is a moral and economic imperative.
Unfortunately, many phones are built to stop working.
Ever felt your phone getting slower or rifled through a stash of old, unusable apple chargers for the right dongle? Then you’ve experienced the blood-boiling frustrations of planned obsolescence.
Manufacturers deliberately limit the lifespan of their own devices in order to force consumers to buy newer models.
Public opinion is against this practice.
According to a European Commission study conducted last year, 77 per cent of EU citizens would rather repair their devices than replace them. In addition, 79 per cent think that manufacturers should make their digital devices easier to repair, with better access to individual parts.