OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

A reflective blog exploring recycling & sustainability initiatives at the Overseas School of Colombo

Acid Dilemmas: Recycling Batteries in Sri Lanka

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In Sri Lanka, like most other countries around the world, the daily usage of batteries is high. The varieties of batteries range from normal AA size to lead acid batteries in vehicles. Ranging with size, however, is also the toxicity of these batteries and the threat they pose on the environment. This factor comes into question when looking at the methods of disposal we follow. This article follows general statistics in Sri Lanka in terms of the usage and recycling of batteries, as well as a close up of the Battaramulla area and OSC itself.

Sri Lanka most notably uses 5 types of batteries: automotive, generic, industrial, motive and special. The lifetime of all these batteries vary with brand and usage, and the size depends on their purpose. Automotive batteries are used in vehicles, generic in portable tools and devices (such as alarm systems), industrial for stationary applications such as telecommunications, motives for transporting loads such as fork lift trucks, and finally special batteries scientific, medical or military applications. Out of these the most widely used are the automotive batteries, used to power nearly all of the 1.5 million vehicles on the roads.

All batteries are made by a range of substances like acid, lead, nickel, mercury, etc. Needless to say, these substances are extremely harmful for the environment if not disposed properly. Over time, the casing of the battery can disintegrate and the toxic chemicals can leak into the surroundings. These chemicals can contaminate the soil and water and can harm both humans and wildlife. Although batteries made of mercury, which is one of the most harmful substances, are now appearing less in the market, the problem arises when considering the fact that other batteries are still produced in large stocks of around billions every year.

The recycling of batteries takes place by dismantling them and removing the chemical substances inside for reuse. When recycling is not possible, the substances are disposed of in a way that they are not harmful to the environment. Some batteries are even buried in concrete to ensure this (Recycling). This is not done in Sri Lanka; rather Battery recycling involves a series of intermediary management steps that entail only collecting, stacking and reconditioning. These activities are carried out in the form of small and medium scale businesses. In a survey done in 2005 by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) in collaboration with the Divisional Environmental Officers (DEOs) of Sri Lanka, it was revealed that 2000 such places of recycling and reassembling places existed in Sri Lanka (Ministry).

Here in the Battaramulla area, there are several such businesses that take in batteries and transport them for recycling.  OSC’s Grade 11 geography class visited such a place and found out that the buying price for an automotive battery is Rs 60/kg and the selling price is Rs 75/kg. For Computer batteries it is Rs 25/kg and Rs 35/kg respectively. These businesses are important both to the economical development of people who’ve set them up, but more significantly to the sustenance of the environment we all share.

In a survey conducted for the recycling of batteries at OSC, the following results were obtained from the 39 people who answered. When asked whether they recycle laptop and mobile phone batteries, only 10% ‘Yes’ with 62% saying ‘No’. Those who do recycle them stated that they do so by taking them to a shop that takes them in (much like the one our class visited). When asked how they dispose regular AA size batteries, 44% said that they just throw them away, while 36% said that they throw them away separated from other garbage items. Some also stated that they keep them in their houses separately in a cupboard so as not to pollute (Survey). As recycling is not possible for normal AA batteries, this is the next best option. Overall these results weigh on the positive side, as most of our students are aware of places to recycle batteries at and also to keep them from harming the environment. However, more awareness should nevertheless be spread as to ensuring that 62% people who do not recycle phone and laptop batteries are told about places where they can do so.

Article Copyright: Harini Liyanage  2011

Works Cited

Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. “Technical Guidelines on Management of Used Lead Acid Batteries.” Cea.lk. Central Environmental Authority, 2005. Web. Feb. 2011. <http://www.cea.lk/pdf/Battery%20waste%20Management%20Guidelines.pdf&gt;.

“Recycling Batteries and The Toxic Hazards of Battery Disposal.” AZoCleanTech – The A to Z of Clean Technology / CleanTech. Web. 27 Feb. 2011. <http://www.azocleantech.com/Details.asp?ArticleID=132&gt;.

“Survey on Recycling Batteries at OSC.” Online Survey Software Tool – Create Free Online Surveys – Zoomerang. 26 Feb. 2011. Web. 27 Feb. 2011. <http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22BY6CQYLYB/&gt;.

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Written by recycling1011

2011-04-22 at 3:45 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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