If not treated properly, the residues of these products can pollute the environment. In this context, the experts specified the current management of such devices once downloaded and stressed that there is still a lot to be done.
We open the trash can and hesitate. Where to throw used batteries? Argentina imports large quantities of these devices, and their residues can contaminate water, soil and air. In a conference organized by the Faculty of Agronomy of the UBA (UBA), specialists discussed how, in CABA, companies that sell batteries finance the management of their used products and looked at the alternatives that exist to reintroduce their components into the industry. Furthermore, they agreed that there is no national law to solve the problem.
“Some waste that we generate in our homes should not be thrown in the trash or in the recyclable bin, as their components may contain hazardous elements and may be released into the environment. Therefore, they must be managed in a particular way. Batteries belong to this group called Universal Generation Special Waste because they may contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead or cadmium. If a battery is not properly disposed of, it can contaminate up to 600,000 liters of water, as well as air, soil and food.“, commented Juan Manuel Flores Lainez, student of FAUBA and member of Fauba Verde, the waste sorting program of this faculty. What are we doing and what else can we do to solve this problem?
According to Flores Lainez, in 2019 Argentina imported around 250 million batteries, which is more than 6,000 tons. The particularity is that only CABA — and only since 2018 — manages them in a differentiated way once downloaded. In 2021, about 2 tons per month have been reached, and to date more than 40 tons have been collected.
“So the big question is: where do we throw the batteries? In the city of Buenos Aires you can take them to more than 150 places. Collection points are located at green points in parks and squares, and at mobile green points, which are vans that travel to different parts of the city. Also in some pharmacies, gas stations and electronics storessaid Juan Manuel.
In addition, Flores Lainez, student in the Bachelor of Environmental Sciences (LiCiA), added: “Then the batteries are taken to a place called a warehouse to analyze their dangerousness, then they are transported to Rosario, where they are classified and incinerated in a controlled manner in special ovens. In this process, the nickel is recovered and the ashes are encapsulated in glass balls which are deposited in a secure landfill in the same province.”. Who is responsible for the management of used batteries?
“Law 5,991 on the environmental management of used batteries is an unprecedented regulation at the local level. It establishes that companies that sell batteries in CABA must manage the waste generated by their productsexplains Jaqueline Schell, LiCiA student and technical analyst at the CABA Environmental Protection Agency (APrA). “Importers and distributors are responsible for presenting, financing and administering a management plan based on the best available technologies. Today, eleven companies representing 90% of the battery market are in charge of carrying out the plan.”.
And he pointed out that “They must also guarantee the traceability of the batteries, that is to say the analysis, classification and control, up to the state body which applies the law, namely the APrA. In turn, this institution controls companies and companies that sell batteries “outside” the management plan. Progress is being made, but there is still a long way to go”.
Jorge Sambeth, a researcher at the National University of La Plata and CONICET, runs a scientific and experimental plant in the city of La Plata that processes 100 kilos of batteries per month and recovers their metals to reintroduce them into industry. Jorge pointed out: “We separate 95% of the zinc and 70% of the manganese. Manganese is used as a pigment, also to reduce compounds responsible for photochemical smog, and is mixed with iron to produce steels. Zinc has fungicidal and bactericidal properties and is added to paints, and is also used in PET recovery processes”.
In turn, the researcher said that the experiment could be taken to an industrial level. “We carry out analyzes of economic, climatic and environmental impact. We use bacteria that grow at 25°C, so temperature is a limiting factor. Power plants could be installed in the Rosario-San Nicolás corridor, in Mendoza or in San Juan. On the other hand, the environmental impact study remains to be refined. It is necessary to carry out an intensive analysis and control of the possible impacts of batteries on the air, water and soil of the areas”.
“There is no national law on battery waste management. So far, only those generated by CABA importers are processed, but there are importers all over the country.said Micaela Rivero, head of cell and battery certification at the National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI). On this point, Sambeth and Schell agreed with Rivero, within the framework of the Expert Panel on Batteries organized by Fauba Verde.
Rivero also explained that the current national regulation —Law 26,184— was born in 2007 to control the quality of batteries entering Argentina. “Until then, a lot of very poor quality goods were coming in. The rule prohibits the manufacture, assembly or import of cells and batteries with certain characteristics and establishes conditions for their entry. Today, importing companies must certify batteries as well as devices with built-in batteries, such as toys or calculators.”.
“In our homes, we do not recommend storing batteries in plastic bottles because they can continue to react and spill their toxic components,” said Julián Monkes, FAUBA teacher and Fauba Verde coordinator. In this regard, he added, “We recommend bringing them in bulk to the collection sites so that the management process is facilitated.”
To conclude, the FAUBA teacher suggested: “We must first reduce the consumption of batteries and the devices that need them, and – if it is unavoidable – buy rechargeable batteries, of better quality and at lower cost. environmental impact.”