The term battery refers to a storage element for electrical energy that is not rechargeable (or only rechargeable to a very limited extent). They are also called primary cell batteries. The Batteries Act (Batteriegesetz) classifies batteries according to their application, for instance it differentiates between portable batteries, automotive batteries and industrial batteries.
The term accumulator refers to rechargeable storage elements, also called secondary battery cells. Several secondary battery cells wired together are also called a battery. Batteries are mainly made up of metals. The recovery of these metals contributes to responsible resource management. However, batteries also contain substances that are harmful to health and the environment. For this reason, it is prohibited to dispose of batteries as household waste. In Germany, more than 50,000 tonnes of portable batteries and accumulators are placed on the market every year. Consumers can return waste portable batteries to retail outlets free of charge. In addition, many municipalities offer consumers the option to dispose of them at recycling centres or mobile pollutant collection centres.
By setting up collection schemes, manufacturers of portable batteries are fulfilling their product responsibility and providing for the collection, recycling or environmentally sound disposal of waste batteries. There are currently five collection schemes in operation on the market.
- Manufacturers’ common collection scheme of GRS Batterien Foundation
- CCR REBAT Germany
- European Recycling Platform (ERP)
- Öcorecell (German only)
These collection schemes generally work with third party contractors, such as logistics and disposal companies, to take back the batteries for them and fulfil the recovery obligations.
Industrial batteries include batteries for electric bikes and pedelecs and batteries for electric vehicles. These can also be returned to the distributors. Automotive batteries are also called starter batteries, as they are used for the starting, lighting and ignition power of vehicles. Automotive batteries can also be returned free of charge to retailers. These batteries contain large amounts of lead and can thus be almost 100 percent recycled.