India’s Mounting Battery Waste Challenge Needs Sustained Focus To Be Managed

Highlights :

written by Mr. Arun Kumar Sahay, Senior Vice President & Head Operations, Eveready Industries India Ltd.

India’s Mounting Battery Waste Challenge Needs Sustained Focus To Be Managed

In the current technology-driven era, electronic products and batteries have become indispensable parts of our lives. From smart televisions and their remote controls to children’s toys, flashlights, and gaming or hand-held devices, they play a vital role in helping us meet our modern-day needs, and entertainment as well as perform tasks efficiently and seamlessly. Since most of these electronic gadgets run on batteries, their growing use is resulting in large numbers of used batteries being discarded as waste, adversely impacting the environment, and thus posing a major risk to human health. This necessitates efforts to find the right balance between consumption of electronic products and batteries, and sustainability, with proper and efficient battery waste management for a sustainable future.

At present, India is striving to emerge as one of the top 3 global economies. It has witnessed landmark progress in terms of its economic growth, resulting in rising disposable income for its growing population. This indicates that the large consumer base here will continue to drive the demand for battery-run electronic products, increasing the chances of a monumental growth of battery waste. It is estimated that India already generates over 50,000 tonnes of battery waste annually.

A recent study by Nielsen Media for Amazon India highlighted that consumers are expected to spend on a varied range of categories during this upcoming festive and holiday season – from high-value items to daily essentials. Amongst these, 75% are looking forward to purchasing electronic gadgets like TVs, ACs, and other home and lifestyle-related products online. The potential risk for increased battery waste gets further exacerbated.

Another big challenge is that a majority of India’s used batteries are held, handled, managed or processed by the informal sector, or they end up in landfills and garbage dumps. Due to the lack of standardized and proper battery waste management processes along with non-adherence to environmental regulations and guidelines, the chances of environmental damage and health hazards increase, putting the lives of communities at risk.

Batteries contain elements which are detrimental to the health of the environment. When untreated batteries are dumped into the ecology, they damage soil health, water bodies, and air quality. Moreover, irresponsible dismantling of electronic goods, batteries and burning waste in landfills lead to dire consequences such as an alarming rise in air and soil pollution levels as well.

Strategies for Efficient Battery Waste Management

  • Government Initiatives and Regulations

At this critical juncture, it is encouraging that the Indian Government has recognized the importance of battery waste management for sustainable development. It has taken noteworthy steps by implementing a series of policies and regulations to promote responsible battery disposal and recycling. For example, the Battery Waste Management Rules 2022 are aimed at providing a unified structure for battery waste management. The rules cover all types of batteries and apply to manufacturers, importers, assemblers, re-conditioners, consumers, and recyclers. Additionally, it has introduced strict Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) obligations. These focus on sound management of battery waste and provisions for the formalization of informal battery recycling for sustainable e-waste management in India.

  • Fostering Consumer Awareness and Responsible Practices

The lack of consumer awareness and education on recycling, secure disposal, and efficient management of batteries has long been a notable element contributing to the growing problem of battery waste in India. This lack of information has contributed to a culture of improper battery disposal, which has been exacerbated by a lack of waste management infrastructure. It is crucial to launch extensive awareness campaigns and initiatives targeted at educating consumers about the environmental effects of incorrect battery disposal and the potential risks connected with it in order to effectively tackle this issue. By educating customers about practical recycling and safe disposal options, these campaigns can help promote responsible behaviour in the management of battery waste.

Fostering Sustainable Practices in Electronic Goods and Battery Manufacturing

Similarly, electronic goods and battery manufacturers are required to follow sustainable and responsible manufacturing. Promoting the use of sustainable materials, recovering products with take-back programs, responsible disposal along with e-waste management, and collaborations with government, academia and industry partners for sustainability initiatives can go a long way to reducing e-waste and contribute to better e-waste management.

Moreover, it should be noted that efficient and responsible management can actually turn waste into wealth. Discarded electronic goods and batteries are sources of valuable metals that can be recovered and reused for various applications. This not only reduces the demand for finite resources but also ensures efficient utilization of valuable materials and rare metals. By this, it can benefit the country by reducing import dependence on metals along with improving environmental and financial gains.

 Addressing the battery waste challenge is no longer a choice but a necessity. Taking adequate steps by promoting responsible management, increasing consumer awareness and promoting sustainable manufacturing can not only reduce the growing burden of electronic waste in the country but further propel the development of a circular economy in the long run.

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