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What Happens When You Throw Out Your Pencil Batteries?

Auth Anushka Agarwal | Apr 29,2020
172 Views

So, you bought a pair of non-rechargeable batteries. Once you are done with them, you throw them out in the dump. But, did you ever think what happens to those pencil batteries once you throw them out?

A study by Toxics Link, an environmental research and advocacy organization estimates that 2.7 billion pieces of dry cell batteries are consumed every year in India. They are used in a variety of products ranging from cars, mobile, laptops, watches, toys, medical devices, inverters, etc. In the tech world we live, it is impossible to sustain without using any chargers or batteries of any kind. The recent world is trying to solve its energy crisis by using renewable energy. This has led to a surge in the demand for batteries required in several sectors.

Indian market is dominated by non-rechargeable batteries, mainly because they are cheaper and are more preferred over the expensive ones. The dry cell battery market in India accounts for 97% of the market share. These dry cells battery consist of many metals and chemicals like cadmium, nickel, lead, mercury, copper, zinc, manganese, or lithium. Most of the disposed batteries end up in landfills along with all the heavy metals and chemicals in them. These not only contaminate the surrounding area but the heavy chemicals seep into the ground and reach the water table, in turn polluting water sources as well. If the total scenario is considered, it also contaminates the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink; compromising public health, in general.

India is not equipped with handling such types of landfills that can treat dry cells effectively and separately. All of these metals are recognized to have toxic effects and known to damage the nervous system, kidneys, cause cancer, and birth defects. Most of the batteries are sold in rural areas and account for the majority of volume sales as well. This further raises the concerns associated with the usage of dry battery cells causing the release of toxic materials leaching not just on landfill sites, but agricultural fields as well. 

Though batteries with solar power have longer lifespans and are environment-friendly as well, their usage in the rural fields is limited. Then we have the best AAA or AA rechargeable batteries as well. Recycling of batteries has been a global issue and most of the countries are not to process or recycle the important metals. However, the case worsens in India most consumers prefer to buy one-time disposable batteries.

Furthermore, these batteries are used and discarded just like they don’t have any monetary value. The Indian consumer market is still not adaptable to using rechargeable batteries and this happens to be a big concern. Even when there are efficient battery manufacturers like SmartCell batteries, single-use batteries are still most prevalently used in the market. These batteries are discarded in high amounts as household waste.

Battery Market in India Has Poor End-Of-Life Battery Management

In India, there is a complete absence of a comprehensive battery management system with proper infrastructure and a framework in place for the handling of end-of-life dry cell batteries. There has to be an educative approach to its study of how different materials can be processed and recycled in a safe and environment-friendly way.

The current Municipal Waste Rules, 2016 states that batteries are a part of the domestic hazardous waste and there are no collection centers or recycling facilities available for the same. The battery waste is not even segregated and is disposed of as normal domestic waste only. The lack of scientifically designed landfills makes it difficult to remove the toxicity factor in these batteries. Also, the Indian customer market has to be educated about the issues pertaining to the single-use batteries and switch them over with rechargeable batteries.

Wrapping it Up

Such informal recycling further contaminates groundwater and air. The report by Toxic Link talks about how these zinc-carbon batteries if properly recycled can result in an extraction of 15025.42 tons of zinc, 15258.07 tons of manganese, 10848.50 tons of steel, and 2.4 billion graphite rods.

Regulation of the dry-cell battery constituents, its labeling, design, and efficient recycling can reduce the key impacts on the public and the environment. Furthermore, with the increasing load on the battery market from various sectors, it becomes more important to find a suitable regulatory system in place for treating all the waste and recycling them for mineral extraction. With an evolved section in action, there are a lot of things that can be regulated in the electrifying potential of the battery market.

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