Growing Demand for Consumer Electronics & Batteries: Navigating through Battery Waste Challenge

Having completed his Post Graduate Diploma in Management from Symbiosis Institute of Management & HRD, Anirban is a seasoned business professional with over 27 years of experience across diverse industry functions. Prior to joining Eveready in 2022, he has had successful stints with companies such as Godrej Consumer Products, Godrej Natures Basket, The Hershey Company, Reliance Communications, and Electrolux.

The evolving needs & preferences of today’s consumers and their growing inclination towards a convenient & hassle-free lifestyle are propelling the consumption of consumer electronics in India. Nowadays, they are rapidly adopting the latest electronic gadgets such as smart TVs, gaming consoles, speakers for entertainment, remote control systems for convenience, children’s toys for leisure, and products like flashlights or digital clocks for their daily needs, which is driving demand for electronic products in the market. According to a recent report, technical consumer goods which include electronic products and gadgets have registered an impressive eight percent growth in the first half of this year as compared to the same period in the preceding year, and the demand is set to grow in the coming period, which is really promising.

While the growing demand and adoption of consumer electronics is crucial for economic resilience, it also places the manufacturing industry at a crossroads where it has to gear-up to address the environmental challenges it faces today. Climate change, depleting finite resources and alarming rise in pollution levels make it the need of hour to align efforts to ensure sustainable development. Speaking of electronic goods, most of these gadgets run on batteries, and as a result of their growing consumption, a large number of used batteries are being discarded as waste. This necessitates efforts to combat the growing concerns around battery waste for environmental protection.

Notably, battery waste is composed of hazardous elements such as lithium, lead, arsenic and many others. The unsafe disposal of these elements can have a detrimental impact on the environment. Also in India, a large number of battery waste is handled by the informal sector which lacks organized, efficient and certified recyclers. Due to irresponsible handling & disposal, inefficient waste management, and non-compliance to regulations & guidelines, untreated battery waste ends-up in landfills and seriously damages the soil, air and water quality, thus causing serious health hazards to living beings as well.

Managing Battery Waste: A Collective Responsibility

Addressing the challenge of growing battery waste is a collective responsibility and demands participation from all stakeholders including policymakers, manufacturers, and most importantly, consumers. Taking note of the serious challenges of growing battery waste, the Indian Government has taken exemplary steps with the introduction of policies and regulations. For example, it has introduced Battery Waste Management Rules 2022, covering all kinds of batteries to promote responsible disposal and safe & sound management of battery waste. Additionally, it has also introduced the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) norms, making producers and importers also as the participants in battery waste collection, recycling and reusing recovered materials from wastes. The EPR obligations in India further promote setting-up an online portal for the exchange of EPR certificates between producers and recyclers along with new industries and entrepreneurial opportunities for collection and recycling of waste batteries for a sustainable future.

Along with robust guidelines and stricter norms, recycling and reusing battery waste hold immense potential. Recycling can actually turn waste into wealth as the battery is composed of valuable minerals which can be recovered and reused to make new products. Apart from environmental gains, they bring many cost benefits by reducing dependency on imports and lowering spending on rare minerals for battery manufacturing. To promote innovative approaches in battery recycling and waste management, the right policies, infrastructure, incentives for battery recycling businesses, and R&D programs are required. Also, focus should be given on formalizing the informal sector for battery recycling so that a significant portion of battery waste is managed efficiently and safely.

To reduce the burden of battery waste, manufacturers are required to follow a sustainable approach and contribute to building a circular economy. By coming-up with efficient products with extended lifespans, minimizing waste, promoting energy efficiency, and adopting safe waste disposal & collection can bring significant results. It is also crucial to link the consumer with the sustainability cause. To achieve this, it is essential to raise consumer awareness and develop a sense of responsibility towards protecting the planet with awareness programs and promoting eco-friendly practices.

With rising disposable income and increasing spending on electronic goods, the demand for batteries is going to increase. To ensure this demand is met sustainably, efficient management of battery waste is pivotal to reducing environmental impact and building a sustainable future for current and coming generations.