Used batteries are hazardous waste. They contain toxic heavy metals that end up in the waste stream. In humid conditions or when thrown into dumping grounds or landfills, the battery casings corrode and the metals may contaminate the ground water. When incinerated, the toxics are released into the atmosphere, and the incinerator ash is contaminated.
The two most common battery types disposed of in Pondicherry are alkaline and zinc chloride, each type making up about 50% of the 23 types of batteries collected so far at Shuddham. These batteries contain mercury, which can cause brain and nervous system damage to humans.
There is currently no safe handling or recycling of batteries or portable e-waste in Pondicherry. In order to take one hazardous stream of toxic waste out of the system, Shuddham is collecting used batteries to be sent for recyling. Shuddham has set up collection points at retail outlets located in the Raj Bhavan ward of Pondicherry, such as Grinde R. Sridharan and Bon Appetit, as well as at the Lycee Francais, the French Instutute and Creative Art of Souls.
Once Shuddham has collected a ton of batteries, they will have it sent to E-Parisaraa, an e-waste recycling company in Bangalore. At the moment, E-Parisaraa is also collecting batteries. Once they have sufficient volume, they will either send it abroad for recycling or set up a processing facility in India.
What can you do?
- Reduce. Limit the number of battery-operated instruments, appliances and tools you use.
- Reuse. Purchase rechargeable batteries. The best option is nickel metal hydride batteries that contain no toxic heavy metals. Other batteries, including nickel cadmium and rechargeable alkalide batteries, still contain toxic metals such as cadmium and mercury.
- Recycle. In Pondicherry, you can drop off your used batteries at one of the collection centers mentioned above. Or, start your own collection box.