Replacing disposable batteries with rechargeable batteries will eliminate 99 000 tonnes of waste in Europe and 330 000 tonnes worldwide.
This waste includes toxic chemicals that can contaminate ground water, plant, animal life and soil for up to 50 years.
These are the results of an independent French study commissioned by rechargeable battery manufacturer Uniross, which confirm the harmful effects of domestic batteries on the environment.
The research covers the first worldwide study of the environmental impact of disposable (alkaline) batteries versus rechargeable batteries (Ni-MH).
Rechargeable batteries have up to 28 times less impact on climate warming than disposable batteries. This ratio can mainly be explained by the impact caused when manufacturing disposable batteries and distributing them (transportation in trucks and the related greenhouse gas emissions).
South Africa disposes of close to 100-million batteries annually, but none are recycled.
“Rechargeable batteries address the harmful environmental effects of disposable batteries because they can be reused up to 1 000 times,” says Uniross GM Kevin Rogers.
“Uniross recently announced its Hybrio consumer battery range which has the WWF endorsement and contains the WWF logo. It is the world’s first fully biodegradable battery.
“In addition to being able to be recharged up to 1 000 times, meaning that only a fraction of rechargeable batteries are required, compared with non-rechargeable batteries, the research found that rechargeable batteries have up to 12 times less potential toxic risks for fresh water and sea water sediments than disposable batteries,” says Rogers.
Photochemical oxidation is responsible for peaks of ozone and emissions of compounds toxic to man. Rechargeable batteries have up to 30 times less impact on ozone pollution than disposable batteries.
Rechargeable batteries consume up to 23 times less non-renewable natural resources (fossil and mineral) than disposable batteries.
Climate change means an increase in the average temperature of the earth’s surface caused by an increase in the greenhouse gas effect.
The study drew up a list of raw materials used for each type of battery (disposable and rechargeable). It found that using rechargeable batteries provides real savings on packaging, since one pack of rechargeable batteries is needed compared to 93 packs of disposable batteries. They also provide one solution for reducing the impact of dead batteries and handling them through recycling systems.
Rechargeable batteries have up to nine times less impact on air acidification than disposable batteries. The air acidification indicator consists in the accumulation of acidifying substances in the particles in suspension in the atmosphere. Deposited in ecosystems by rain, they have a strong impact on soil and ecosystems.
Nearly 1-billion disposable (non-rechargeable) batteries are consumed in France each year of which about a third are recycled. France has one of the highest recycle rates in the world.
“We are aware of the environmental impact of batteries in general, that is why we commissioned this study, the first of its kind in the world, in order to envisage real progress in the fight against battery pollution. No study had so obviously shown the environmental benefits of rechargeable batteries,” says Christophe Gurtner, CEO of Uniross.
Today, when the choices of responsible consumption are at the heart of the debate, the Uniross study proves that switching from disposable to sustainable is not only possible, but also necessary.”
This study, supported financially by ADEME and performed by Bio Intelligence Service for UNIROSS, was based on the comparative Life Cycle Analysis of disposable batteries and rechargeable batteries from their production to the end of their lifetime.