There are several chemical compositions of single-use and rechargeable batteries in common commercial use, including alkaline, nickel cadmium, lithium ion, and lead acid. The dangerous waste rules adopted by the Department of Ecology (Ecology) allow businesses to manage most types of batteries as universal waste, which allows the batteries to be managed consistent with universally applicable waste containment, management, accumulation, labeling, shipment, and release response criteria. Ecology encourages household generators of battery waste to take them to a household hazardous waste collection facility. Batteries can also be returned to the place of purchase if the retailer participates in a battery return program. Some product and battery manufacturers and retailers participate voluntarily in programs to promote battery recycling.
Washington has established stewardship programs for five categories of products: (1) electronics; (2) light bulbs containing mercury, such as compact fluorescent lights; (3) photovoltaic solar panels; (4) pharmaceuticals; and (5) paint. The Electronic Products Stewardship Program provides for the collection and management of batteries and other components contained in covered electronic products.
In general, the state's product stewardship programs require producers to participate in a stewardship organization or program that is responsible for the collection, transport, and end-of-life management of covered products. Ecology is responsible for the oversight of the state's product stewardship programs, with the exception of the Pharmaceutical Stewardship Program, which is overseen by the Department of Health.
Under state solid waste laws, Ecology implements and enforces a Vehicle Battery Recycling Program. Batteries covered by the Vehicle Battery Recycling Program include batteries with a core of elemental lead that are capable of use in any vehicle, truck, boat, airplane, or utility vehicle, and capable of producing 6 or more volts. The Vehicle Battery Recycling Program prohibits the disposal of covered batteries except by delivery to a person selling lead acid batteries, Ecology-authorized collectors, or to a secondary lead smelter. The retail sale of each vehicle battery must include in the price of a battery sale a core charge of at least $5, which is applied unless the purchaser offers the seller an equivalent used battery. People that sell vehicle batteries at retail in Washington must accept used vehicle batteries from a battery purchaser at the time of purchase of a replacement battery, and must post notices to inform customers of certain requirements of the Vehicle Battery Recycling Program.
The Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB) is an appeals board with jurisdiction to hear appeals of certain decisions, orders, and penalties issued by Ecology and several other state agencies. Parties aggrieved by a PCHB decision may obtain subsequent judicial review. Penalties that are appealable to the PCHB may be imposed and collected following certain protocols.
The Utilities and Transportation Commission supervises and regulates private solid waste companies, including reviewing and approving their rates and fees. Cities and towns also sometimes provide solid waste collection services.
Battery Labeling Requirements.
Three categories of batteries are established based on size and power storage capacity:
Beginning January 1, 2028, producers and retailers may only sell, distribute, or offer for sale portable batteries, medium format batteries, large format batteries, and battery-containing products containing a battery designed or intended to be easily removable from the product if the batteries are:
By rule, the Department of Ecology (Ecology) may amend battery labeling requirements to maintain consistency with labeling requirements or voluntary standards in federal law.
Battery Manufacturer and Retailer Responsibilities.
Beginning January 1, 2027, each producer selling, distributing, or offering for sale portable batteries or battery-containing products must participate in and fund a stewardship organization that implements a stewardship plan approved by Ecology. This requirement applies to producers of medium format batteries beginning January 1, 2029. Producers that do not participate in a stewardship plan may not sell covered batteries in Washington. Excluded from these requirements are producers of batteries contained within medical devices, batteries that contain electrolyte as a free liquid, lead acid batteries weighing more than 11 pounds, batteries subject to the Ecology-implemented lead Vehicle Battery Recycling Program, and batteries contained in battery-containing products that are not intended or designed to be easily removed from the product. Covered electronic products under the state's electronic product recycling law are excluded from the battery-containing products subject to product stewardship program participation requirements. Producer responsibility for a covered battery or battery-containing product is assigned to one of a number of entities associated the battery or product, or to be a party that has contractually accepted responsibility as the producer for a battery or battery-containing product.
Beginning July 1, 2027, for portable batteries, and July 1, 2029, for medium format batteries, retailers may not sell, distribute, or offer for sale covered batteries or battery-containing products unless the producer participates in a battery stewardship organization. Retailers are in compliance and not subject to penalties so long as a website made available by Ecology lists the producer or brand of battery or battery-containing product as being a stewardship plan participant. Retailers are not required to make retail locations available to serve as collection sites for a battery stewardship program; however, retail locations that do serve as collection sites must comply with requirements for battery collection sites established for the battery stewardship organization.
Retailers may not sell batteries that are not marked consistent with battery labeling requirements. Producers must certify to retailers that the batteries in their battery-containing products are labeled consistent with battery labeling requirements. Retailers may provide information supplied by the battery stewardship organization regarding the options for end-of-life management provided through the battery stewardship program. Battery stewardship organizations must make specified types of information available to retailers. Retailers, producers, or battery stewardship organizations may not charge a point-of-sale fee to consumers to cover stewardship organization or battery stewardship program costs.
Stewardship Plan Submission and Performance Goals, Funding, Collection and Management, and Education and Outreach.
By the later of July 1, 2026, or within six months of Ecology adopting program rules, a battery stewardship organization must submit a plan for covered portable batteries to Ecology for approval. A battery stewardship organization must submit a plan for covered medium format batteries within two years of Ecology adopting rules to implement battery stewardship law requirements. Ecology must review a submitted plan and may approve it based on consideration of 15 specified components. When certain changes occur to program operations, battery stewardship organizations must submit new plans to Ecology or submit plan amendments to Ecology, depending on the nature of the operational change. Battery stewardship organizations must submit new plans for approval to Ecology at least every five years. Ecology may require the submission of a revised plan at least five years after the approval of an initial plan if the battery stewardship organization fails to meet specified performance goals.
A battery stewardship organization's plan submitted to Ecology for approval and implemented by the battery stewardship organization must include the following:
Battery Stewardship Program Administration, Enforcement, and Reporting.
Battery stewardship organizations must submit annual reports to Ecology, beginning June 1, 2028. Annual reports must include financial assessments and statements, operational and logistical information such as the location of collection sites, and specified statistics regarding program operations, including statistics used to determine the satisfaction of battery stewardship program performance goals under the plan. Battery stewardship organizations may request that Ecology keep submitted information confidential. Ecology must adopt rules to implement, administer, and enforce battery management requirements. Ecology must establish annual fees to be paid by battery stewardship organizations. Ecology is assigned specific roles and responsibilities, including reviewing submitted stewardship plans and annual reports, and maintaining a website that lists producers and brands participating in an approved battery stewardship organization.
Ecology may impose civil penalties of up to $1,000 per violation per day after first issuing a written warning, or up to $10,000 per violation per day for repeat violations or for violations of corrective action orders. Penalties are deposited in the Model Toxics Control Operating Account and are appealable to the Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB), and must be imposed in a manner consistent with the issuance of other penalties appealable to the PCHB.
An account is created for the deposit of administrative fees paid by battery stewardship organizations.
Civil Actions Among Producers and Battery Stewardship Organizations.
Battery stewardship organizations may bring civil actions to recover costs, damages, and fees from producers who sell covered batteries or battery-containing products not included in an approved plan. In order to bring a civil action, a battery stewardship organization must incur costs for managing batteries in excess of $1,000 associated with a nonparticipating producer. Battery stewardship organizations may also bring civil actions against other battery stewardship organizations that underperform on their battery collection responsibilities by failing to collect and manage batteries in an amount roughly equivalent to the costs imposed on the plaintiff battery stewardship organization by the defendant, plus legal fees. Civil actions are in addition to Ecology's penalty authority.
Evaluations of Electric Vehicle Batteries and Other Non-Covered Batteries.
Ecology must submit a report to the Legislature making policy recommendations for the collection and management of electric vehicle batteries, with a preliminary report due in November 2023 and a final report due in April 2024. In developing recommendations, Ecology must solicit stakeholder input and examine best practices in other jurisdictions.
By July 1, 2027, Ecology must complete an assessment of the opportunities and challenges for the end-of-life management batteries that are not required to participate in a battery stewardship organization, including large format batteries, lead acid batteries subject to the existing lead acid vehicle battery program, and batteries that are not easily removable from a product by a customer, including batteries in medical devices or electronic products. Ecology must consult with the Department of Commerce and stakeholders in completing the assessment, and consider specified aspects of battery management. Ecology must submit a report to the Legislature by October 2027 with the findings of the assessment.
Battery Disposal Requirements.
Persons must dispose of unwanted covered batteries through one of the following: (1) battery stewardship program collection sites; (2) local government facilities operating outside of the battery stewardship program that meet specified collection, transport, and processing standards; and (3) for regulated generators of covered batteries, using disposal methods that meet the requirements of federal or state hazardous and solid waste laws. Fees may not be charged at the time unwanted covered batteries are delivered or collected for management. Batteries may not be placed in waste containers for disposal in landfills, incinerators, or waste-to-energy facilities, or in mixed recyclable containers that do not have a separate location or compartment for covered batteries.
Solid waste facilities are not in violation of these requirements if they post conspicuous signage regarding the requirement to use battery stewardship program battery collection sites for battery disposal.
Battery disposal requirements take effect July 1, 2027, for portable batteries and July 1, 2029, for medium format batteries, or on the first date when a battery stewardship organization begins implementing an approved plan.
The Business and Occupation Tax does not apply to receipts by a battery stewardship organization from participating producers.
Producers and battery stewardship organizations that prepare, submit, and implement a battery stewardship program are granted immunity from state antitrust and trade practice laws for the limited purpose of the battery stewardship program.
The creation of battery management requirements and the battery stewardship program does not change or limit the authority of the Utilities and Transportation Commission or cities and towns related to solid waste services.
A severability clause is included.
(In support) Battery use is increasing. Batteries contain critical resources that are in limited supply, and which should be reused and recycled to reduce the environmental impacts of mining and processing metal ores. Batteries contain toxic materials, and can cause fires if improperly handled or commingled in the curbside solid waste or recycling streams. Battery fires have destroyed local government and solid waste collection company assets, hurt employees and presented safety hazards for workers, and required investments in fire-prevention technologies. Batteries are labor-intensive for solid waste facilities to manage, and often require hand sorting and packaging for transport. Creating a producer responsibility program for batteries that fully reimburses the costs of the collection system will reduce financial burdens on solid waste utility ratepayers. A battery stewardship program will increase consumer convenience for responsible disposal options and increase recycling rates for batteries. The public is unsure of how to properly dispose of batteries. The electric vehicle study in the bill is important because auto wrecking yards currently have no training or viable options for the disposal of electric vehicle batteries. The Legislature could enact a bill in coming years to address electric vehicle battery management.
(Opposed) Businesses that currently refine and recycle battery materials should not be prevented from working with businesses or the battery stewardship organizations to allow for them to continue to collect batteries and manage their collected battery materials.
(Other) This bill exempts batteries that are covered by the state's electronic waste recycling program. This bill will reduce the environmental impacts of batteries but the funds to implement it are not in the Governor's budget. The program is not funded based on a point-of-sale fee, and does not require retailers to serve as takeback locations. The deadline for a battery stewardship organization to submit a plan should be linked to the date on which the Department of Ecology finishes adopting rules to implement the program. Ecology should not, by rule, be allowed to reverse the statutory exemption in the bill for medical products from batter stewardship program participation requirements in future years.
(In support) Currently, the disposal of batteries is costly. Lithium batteries cause fires in trucks and trailers, and means of preventing fires, such as thermal imaging cameras, are expensive. Local governments should receive funding to implement this bill. There has been recent legislation in California and Washington, D.C. with a similar model. There is consumer confusion over which batteries potentially cause fires. It is difficult for recycling facilities to get insurance because people put batteries which may cause fires in the recycling. Batteries should be recovered because there are minerals in them that are mined in countries that have labor and other issues. There is a need for better product stewardship programs, such as the one created in this bill. Batteries need to be kept out of the recycling, garbage, and compost streams.
(Opposed) The battery stewardship organization in this bill is overly complex and would create a virtual monopoly. The battery assessment in the bill should be done first, not after the program has been in place for years. Batteries should be collected for free without this bill.
(Other) Changes made by the House Environment and Energy Committee were welcomed and should remain in the bill. There are concerns that some of the changes made by the House Environment and Energy Committee will have a fiscal impact, or create a risk of litigation.