Laws, Regulations and Best Practices for Lithium Battery Packaging, Transport and Recycling in the United States and Canada
The Regulatory Subcommittee of the NAATBatt Battery Recycling Committee chaired by Keith Loch (GM) has assembled this summary of International, United States and Canadian regulations for the handling of used automotive, industrial, consumer and stationary energy storage lithium batteries. The purpose of this summary is to provide a concise overview of the principal laws, regulations and best practices that are applicable to the packaging, handling, transport, storage and recycling of lithium batteries in North America.
The information contained in this summary is current as of April 2021. NAATBatt does not intend this summary to be legal advice. Circumstances vary and every company packaging, handling, transporting, storing or recycling lithium batteries in North America should seek the advice of its own legal counsel.
Most international regulations classify lithium battery cells and systems as dangerous goods (“DG”). Those regulations sometimes also refer to DG as “hazardous materials”. US regulatory nomenclature also uses the term hazardous materials. Lithium cells and battery systems constitute UN Class 9 DG. The International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”) has promulgated model UN regulations for the air transport of DG. The International Air Transport Association (“IATA”) has also established voluntary, recommended practices for the air transport of DG. The International Maritime Dangerous Goods (“IMDG”) Code establishes voluntary recommended practices for the ocean transportation of DG.
In the United States the Hazardous Materials Regulations (“HMR”), which is found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”), are the umbrella regulations governing the transportation of lithium batteries. The HMR sets out requirements for the handling, transportation and packaging of DG in the United States, including lithium battery systems and cells. The Office of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”), is responsible for drafting and maintaining the HMR. The HMR gives the PHMSA the power to issue rules from time to time that interpret the HMR.
United States Regulations – Primary Sources
The HMR are the umbrella regulations for the transportation of hazardous material in the United States. The HMR is Parts 100 through 185 of Title 49 of the CFR. A link to Title 49 of the CFR, including (but not limited to) the HMR, appears below:
The PHMSA has the power to make rules that interpret and elaborate upon the general regulations set out in the HMR. Once adopted, the PHMSA’s rules have the power of law. A link to the rulemaking documents of the PHMSA, many of which are relevant to the HMR, can be found below:
United States Regulations – Secondary Sources
The Rechargeable Battery Association (“PRBA”) is an association based in Washington, D.C. that focuses on the regulation of portable and rechargeable batteries. The PRBA maintains an online list of laws and regulations applicable to rechargeable batteries. See the list at:
Attached is an informative PHMSA’s presentation with an overview of lithium battery labeling and shipping requirements and of PHMSA resources available to shippers. See the presentation at:
PHMSA Workshop Materials
Differences Between Universal Waste and Hazardous Waste Regulations in the US
Per the US EPA, hazardous waste is a waste with properties that make it dangerous or capable of having a harmful effect on human health or the environment. Hazardous waste generators must determine if their waste is hazardous and must oversee the ultimate fate of the waste.
Universal wastes are hazardous wastes that can be managed under a set of less stringent requirements, as compared with hazardous waste requirements. The universal waste category is to promote and streamline hazardous waste management for certain categories of hazardous waste that are commonly generated by households, retail stores and others that generate these wastes.
40 CFR US federal regulations identify (and define) five specific categories of universal waste: batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, lamps and aerosol cans. For more detail see the link below:
Also the below link describes in more detail the differences in hazardous and universal waste for generators, transporters and recycling. Including some easier to read, useful charts.
Both universal and hazardous wastes cannot be disposed of in municipal solid waste (garbage) landfills. For transport both USDOT and EPA regulations apply. States can have more stringent requirements, but most states can add to the list of hazardous wastes that may be managed as universal wastes in their respective states.
State Laws and Regulations – Secondary Sources
Call2Recycle is the leading consumer battery recycling and stewardship program in the United States and is a member of NAATBatt. Call2Recycle maintains and online list of state laws applicable to the recycling of batteries. See the list at:
Call2Recycle has also prepared a chart of battery disposal requirements by chemistry and state for all U.S. states and Canadian provinces. See the chart at:
Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (“ERCC”) is a public-private association managed by National Center for Electronics Recycling and the Northeast Recycling Council. The ERCC maintains an on-line resource of state regulations focused on small format, electronics recycling. See it at:
Transport Canada is an agency of the Canadian federal government and is responsible for transportation policies and programs in Canada. Transport Canada has published a document offering guidance on the transport of batteries. That document can be seen here:
Individual Canadian provinces can also regulate the handling and recycling of lithium batteries. NAATBatt’s understanding of current Canadian provincial regulation is as follows:
- Provincial regulations governing lithium battery handling and recycling vary by province. Several Canadian provinces are considering legislation imposing extended producer responsibility (EPR) on battery manufacturers
- Province of Quebec will release draft of EPR regulations in 2021 incorporated into existing regulations
- Draft legislation on battery recycling has been proposed in Ontario (Batteries Regulation). The Batteries Regulation applies to single-use (primary) and rechargeable batteries weighing 5 kg or less and sold separately in Ontario (i.e. not embedded in products).
Examples of single-use and rechargeable batteries that fall under the Batteries Regulation are button cells, AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, lantern batteries, sealed lead acid batteries and replacement batteries for products (for example, drill, cell phone, laptop) that weigh under 5 kg or less.
The new regulation does not apply to batteries sold with or in products (for example, batteries sold with or in drills, cell phones, laptops, toys, vapes, fire alarms); or batteries over 5 kg (for example, car batteries, forklift batteries, stationary batteries).
Containerized Energy Storage Systems under Hazmat UN regulations
Energy storage systems (ESS) in cargo transport units (seatainers) are commonly used for both new and 2nd use battery stationary power applications. The attached UN model regulation is applicable to both the transport and also the stationary application for these seatainer storage systems.
UN 3536 “LITHIUM BATTERIES INSTALLED IN CARGO TRANSPORT UNIT lithium ion batteries or lithium metal batteries Class 9 Special Provision 389
ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies (ISO member bodies). ISO publishes documents proposing standards for a wide range of subject. Those documents are available for purchase. ISO 6469-1:2019 Electrically propelled road vehicles — Safety specifications — Part 1: Rechargeable energy storage system (RESS) references standards that are applicable to battery safety. See a summary of ISO 6469-1:2019 or purchase a fully copy at:
Automotive OEM Guidelines
Major automotive OEMs in North America have internal guidelines for handling lithium batteries and battery packs. These guidelines are based on regulations and commercial experience. Guidelines may vary by manufacturer. The following guidelines were provided by one major automotive OEM to its dealers and are reproduced below as a sample:
- Never ship a damaged or compromised battery without prior approval. All dangerous goods (hazardous materials) must be shipped in accordance with all local, state, and federal laws.
- Provide dealers with clear call center communication path if any questions and/or concerns. Including easy Bill of Lading and any transport information.
- Provide dealers with any safety instructions in redundant formats.
- Do not return battery in dunnage other than the dunnage the new/refurbished battery was delivered in. The removed battery core must be returned complete in the original dunnage.
- The battery must be protected when outside of the vehicle. Place in the original shipping dunnage as soon as possible.
- Store the battery flat.
- Store the battery in an environmentally protected, limited access area at room temperature.
- Protect the battery from exposure to liquids and physical damage.
- Longer term storage will need to comprehend other local, state and federal regulations.
SAE J2950_202006 and USABC
The U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium LLC (“USABC”) and SAE International have ongoing projects focused on improving the safety of lithium battery handling and recycling. SAE document J2950_202006 Recommended Practices for Shipping, Transport and Handling of Automotive-Type Battery System has recently been published.
The scope of this document is to reference existing U.S. and international hazardous material transportation regulations for transport and handling of automotive battery systems including li ion batteries. Also this document provides recommendations to be used by service and shipping personnel for the purpose of determining a possibly damaged/defective battery’s transportability. Included in this document are damage determination and regulatory summary flowcharts.
See the latest information about J2950_202006 at:
NAATBatt International is a trade association of companies and research institutions working to promote the development, manufacture, sale and use of advanced battery technology in North America. As part of its mission, NAATBatt is working to develop technologies, systems and technical guidance that will support the safe, environmentally responsible and low cost recycling of lithium batteries.