PRBA-Backed Proposals on Shipments of Damaged and Waste Lithium Batteries Approved by UN Transport Panel — Success at Geneva Meetings Caps Remarkable Year for Battery Association

PRBA-The Rechargeable Battery Association said today that the UN Sub-Committee of  Experts on the Transport of  Dangerous Goods earlier this week adopted proposals introduced by PRBA and RECHARGE, its international European counterpart, on the shipment of damaged or defective lithium batteries and waste lithium batteries.

“The Sub-committee’s actions this week in Geneva, Switzerland, constitute a major accomplishment for PRBA and reflect the enormous efforts by both groups over the last two years to secure these results. We both participated in four UN Sub-Committee meetings and numerous working groups over the last two years to gain approval for these regulations,” said PRBA Executive Director George Kerchner.

“We are very grateful for the significant support provided by members of the Sub-Committee during the two-year process,” Kerchner added. Both decisions will be incorporated into the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods Model Regulations scheduled to take effect in 2015.

The provisions on waste lithium batteries provide a long-overdue exemption from UN testing and battery-design requirements that shippers found impossible to verify before transporting these batteries for recycling or disposal.

The Sub-committee adopted a compromise on the shipment of damaged or defective lithium batteries. It approved the PRBA-RECHARGE proposal that contained a new special provision and two packing instructions that authorize the transport of either damaged or defective lithium batteries.

The new regulations on waste lithium batteries and damaged/defective lithium batteries must now be considered by the International Maritime Organization and International Civil Aviation Organization to determine how they will be incorporated into the applicable dangerous goods regulations governing sea and air transport.

A PRBA and COSTHA (The Council on Safe Transportation of Hazardous Articles) proposal on alternative testing requirements for large lithium batteries designed to power electric and hybrid-electric vehicles was discussed but no vote was taken. However, the UN Sub-Committee agreed with PRBA’s recommendation that a three-day working group meeting should be held next spring to review existing UN testing requirements for large lithium batteries and develop proposals to modify the tests accordingly. PRBA will host that meeting in Washington, D.C.

“PRBA’s accomplishments this week at the UN were the culmination of a very busy and successful year for PRBA, both domestically and internationally,” Kerchner said.

  • In February, President Obama signed into law a major transportation bill, supported by a PRBA-led coalition of trade associations that directed the U.S. Department of Transportation to harmonize its existing regulations on the air shipment of lithium batteries with the more stringent international shipping and packaging requirements contained in ICAO Technical Instructions. DOT is expected to issue a final rule implementing the statute sometime in 2013.
  • The UN Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods in July unanimously approved two proposals filed jointly by PRBA and RECHARGE, on the packaging requirements for large-format lithium batteries.
  • PRBA filed comments with the U.S. International Trade Commission in September supporting an international proposal that would eliminate U.S. and foreign import duties on high-technology products, including lithium ion cells and batteries used in cellular phones and other battery-powered products.
  • PRBA met with legislators in numerous states on rechargeable battery product stewardship bills in order to educate them on the success of the Call2Recycle® program operated by RBRC and explain PRBA’s positions on product stewardship issues and PRBA’s model bill on rechargeable batteries.

“Much has been accomplished in 2012 and we expect to build on those accomplishments next year,” Kerchner concluded.