The Ministry of Environment and Forests has recently notified draft rules, entitled "Batteries (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000", to control the hazards associated with backyard smelting and unauthorised reprocessing of lead acid batteries. The Rules will ensure proper collection and recycling of used lead acid batteries and its parts in the country. The lead acid batteries are widely used in automobiles such as cars, trucks, buses, two-wheelers and inverters etc.
The provisions of the draft rules stipulate that battery manufactures, importers, assemblers and re-conditioners have to collect old batteries on a one to one basis against sale of new batteries. The batteries so collected have to be sent to recyclers, registered with MOEF, for recycling them in an eco-friendly manner, unless battery manufacturers themselves have such recycling facilities. Registration is accorded by the MOEF to only those units, which have in place appropriate manufacturing technology, pollution prevention systems and suitable arrangements for waste disposal.
In order to make the draft rules comprehensive, importers of new batteries, dealers as well as organisations auctioning used batteries have also been brought under the purview of these rules. Only those re-processors registered with the MOEF would be able to participate in sale by auction or contract. As a result, middlemen and backyard smelters would be debarred from participation in any auction within the country. In the case of bulk sale of batteries by manufacturers to bulk consumers, it would be necessary to incorporate suitable provision for buyback.
The draft rules seek to promote up-gradation of technology and environment friendly practices in large, medium or small scale units handling or recycling lead. The battery manufacturers, importers, assemblers and re-conditioners will also have to file returns periodically to the designated regulatory bodies.
Lead metal in lead-acid batteries has been a cause of concern worldwide. Unscientific reprocessing of lead acid batteries is a source of lead pollution. Children have a great potential for exposure to lead pollution and are uniquely susceptible to its toxic effects. It may result in irreversible neurological and neuropsychological damages in children. The developing nervous system in children can be adversely affected. Since lead crosses the placental barrier, the developing foetuses are also at a high risk of lead poisoning from motherís blood. Some of the ill affects of lead poisoning are tiredness, lassitude, slight abdominal discomfort, irritability, increase in blood pressure, anaemia and behavioural changes in children.
Hence, several countries have enacted suitable legislations for encouraging collection of scrap batteries and recycling in an environment friendly manner. The present draft rules are in line with the trends in other countries. Recycling of non-ferrous metals such as lead and zinc helps save energy vis-a-vis primary metal production and is also environment friendly if reprocessing is done with suitable arrangements for pollution control and waste disposal. They also help in conserving precious metal resources. The new notification by MOEF is a step in this direction and would help mitigate environmental damage being caused by improper handling of lead acid batteries.
Comments and suggestions from the general public, industry etc. on the draft rules have been called for and could be sent to the Ministry of Environment and Forests by 25th July 2000.