86% Delhiites not aware of dry cell battery hazards: Report

Nearly 86% people in the national capital are not aware of the hazards associated with dry cell batteries used by them in portable devices every day, says a study published on Wednesday.

What is worse is that at least nine of every 10 Delhiites, after using the batteries, dump them in the dustbins along with other household waste, the study by Toxics Link, a Delhi-based NGO, has found.

These batteries, which contain heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury, ultimately reach the landfill sites where they undergo leaching and release the toxic elements thereby poisoning the atmosphere, the researchers said.

“Out of the 400 households that were surveyed, 86.5% of the respondents were unaware of the hazards posed by batteries, while 92.5% of the people said they throw the batteries in common household dustbins after use,” said Satish Sinha, associate director of Toxics Link.

The report indicates that around 2.7 billion pieces of dry cell batteries are annually consumed in India, out of which 97% are zinc carbon cells. At least 2.4 billion of these single-use batteries reach the landfill sites where they corrode with time and release the toxins into the atmosphere triggering soil, air and water pollution.

It further states that there is neither any regulatory framework nor any voluntary initiative taken by the billion-dollar industry to collect and manage the dead batteries.

“Some of the informal recycling units, which existed in Delhi a few years ago, had to close down because they were not finding the business viable. As a result of this, even the small quantity of batteries that used to get recycled in the informal sector, are now lying in the dumping sites,” said Priti Banthia Mahesh, chief coordinator at Toxics Link.

The study has also flagged concern that valuable resources are lost when the batteries are dumped in the landfill sites.

“Given the volume of batteries that are dumped every year, at least 15,000 tons of zinc and manganese could be recovered from this huge resource if recycled in a scientific manner,” said Mahesh.

The Municipal Waste Rules 2016 does list batteries as hazardous domestic waste, but there are no collection systems or recycling facilities to manage them.

“There is a critical and urgent need for a regulatory framework and setting up infrastructure for management of batteries both on account of reducing environmental impacts and resource recovery,” said Sinha.

First Published:
Mar 14, 2019 10:20 IST

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