India’s new battery waste management rules - GulfToday

India’s new battery waste management rules

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Battery disposal

The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Battery waste is a huge environmental issue globally. Battery recycling has become one of the major concerns for governments as they contain a number of heavy metals and toxic chemicals. Disposing of them by the same process as regular trash has raised concerns over soil contamination and water pollution.

Battery recycling aims to reduce the number of batteries being disposed as municipal solid waste. When incinerated, certain metals might be released into the air or can concentrate in the ash produced by the combustion process.

India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has made available for 60 days the draft version of the ‘Battery Waste Management Rules 2020’ for the public to comment and make objections or suggestions. Statistics show that every year approximately 2.7 billion dry cell batteries are used in the country.

As per the notification, these rules apply to “every manufacturer, producer, collection centre, importer, re-conditioner, re-furbisher, dismantler, assembler, dealer, recycler, auctioneer, vehicle service centre, consumer and bulk consumer involved in manufacture, processing, sale, purchase, collection, storage, re-processing and use of batteries or components thereof, including their components, consumables and spare parts which make the product operational.”

The rules apply to all batteries, except those used in military equipment, space exploration equipment, emergency and alarm systems, emergency lighting and medical equipment. Batteries covered include lithium-ion, lead-acid, magnesium-ion, nickel-cadmium, nickel-hydrogen, zinc-air, aluminum-air, rechargeable fuel, and sodium-sulphur.

As per the draft rules, it shall be the responsibility of a manufacturer, importer, assembler and re-conditioner to ensure that the used batteries are re-collected against new batteries sold, excluding those sold to original equipment manufacturer and bulk consumers. Further, they are required to file annual return of their sales and buy-back to the State Pollution Control Board by December 31 every year. They shall set up collection centers either individually or jointly at various places for collection of used batteries from consumers or dealers, and ensure that used batteries collected are sent only to the registered recyclers.

The notification also says the manufacturers and others responsible must create public awareness through advertisements, publications, posters or by other means with regard to hazards of Lead, Cadmium and Mercury; obligation of consumers to return their used batteries only to the dealers or deliver at collection centres and instructions for handling and disposal of the equipment after its use. In addition, the manufacturers shall collect hazardous waste generated during the manufacture of any battery and channelize it for recycling or disposal.

The distribution and sale of batteries, as also collection, auction, transport and re-processing of used batteries shall be tracked online by a system developed by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) or an agency designated by it.

Further, the CPCB shall be responsible for preparation of guidelines for battery recycling facilities, standardization of technologies for all types of battery recycling, technology transfers, standards for battery waste recycling and waste disposal out of recycling facilities, and establishment of R&D cell for battery recycling.

A Down to Earth report states that “once the rules are enforced the illegal smelting units will have to either fall in line, get the ESM certificate or close shop. The onus will shift on to such smelting units to get themselves approved…Out of the total lead consumption in India 70 per cent is used for batteries and a colossal 60,000 metric tonnes of the lead in the market is recycled illegally. The illegal units run in deplorable conditions and are a threat to public health.”

According to an Institute for Energy Research commentary, batteries can be recycled, but recycling them is not easy due to the sophisticated chemical procedures involved. If not handled properly, the heavy metal contained in the battery can lead to contamination of the soil and water.

It describes that batteries can be recycled through smelting, direct recovery, and other, newer processes. A smelting process is used to recover many minerals (e.g. lithium, cobalt, nickel) contained in the battery. After a battery is smelted, the lithium ends up as a mixed byproduct and extracting it is costly. The value of the raw minerals reclaimed from the process is only about a third of the recycling costs. The cost of extraction of lithium from old batteries is five times more expensive than mined lithium. Experts say that our ever-increasing use of lithium-ion batteries to power our electronics leads to their ending up in our recycling bins, and recycling plants are often battling battery-caused blazes.

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