| ||company: Duracell, Matsushita Battery, SANYO|
country: USA & worldwide
intro: every year, billions of batteries are bought, used and thrown out. In 1998 alone, over 3 billion industrial and household batteries were sold just in the United States. The demand for batteries can be traced largely to the rapid increase in cordless, portable products such as cellular phones, video cameras, laptop computers, and battery-powered tools and toys.
Because many batteries contain toxic constituents such as mercury and cadmium, they pose a potential threat to human health and the environment when disposed of improperly. Though batteries generally make up only a tiny portion of municipal solid waste (MSW) - less than 1 percent - they account for a disproportionate amount of the toxic heavy metals in MSW. When MSW is incinerated or disposed of in landfills, under certain improper management scenarios, these toxics can be released into the environment.
industry: over the past decade, the battery industry, partly in response to public concerns and legislation, has played an active role in finding solutions to these problems. Industry efforts have touched on every stage of the product life cycle:
best practices: here are the main battery manufacturing companies that the EPA (the US Environmental Protection Agency) has cited as the best examples of product stewardship, having adopted environmental policies & services in their production system.
- Redesign: some battery manufacturers are redesigning their products to reduce or eliminate the use of toxic constituents. For example, since the early 1980s manufacturers have reduced their use of mercury by over 98 percent. Many manufacturers are also designing batteries for longer life.
- Reuse: battery manufacturers are producing more rechargeable batteries each year, relative to the number of non-rechargeable batteries produced. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association has estimated that US demand for rechargeables in growing twice as fast as demand for non-rechargeables.
- Recycling: local battery take-back programmes are starting to be applied to a greater or lesser extent in a large number of nations worldwide. In the US, the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) started a nationwide take-back program in 1994 for the collection and recycling of used nickel-cadmium batteries. The RBRC expanded in 2001 to include all portable rechargeable battery chemistries in its take-back program. This is the first nationwide take-back program that involves an entire US industry.
- Duracell [www.duracell.com/care_disposal/disposal.asp] has eliminated mercury from its products in nearly all world markets and is applying the principles of toxic materials elimination and waste minimisation to its manufacturing operations and packaging as well. Between 1988 and 1996, the company's worldwide manufacturing facilities reportedly reduced the generation of hazardous waste by more than 35 percent and increased the amount of materials recycled by about 68 percent. In addition, Duracell uses non-toxic inks and recycled fibre in all of its packaging. Duracell has also recently introduced cadmium-free rechargeable battery packs in nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) and lithium ion (Li-ion) chemistries.
- Matsushita Battery Industrial of America [www.panasonic.com/industrial/battery/oem/about], whose batteries are marketed globally under the Panasonic and national brand names, conducts life cycle analyses of products at the design stage and has obtained ISO 14001 certification for all of its 28 manufacturing locations.
- SANYO [www.sanyo.com/batteries] developed an early take-back system for collecting spent rechargeable batteries directly from consumers. Under the system (called the Mailback Recycle Program), Sanyo sold its RechargAcell line of rechargeable batteries in cardboard tubes which consumers could use to return the Ni-Cd batteries to Sanyo for recycling. The Mailback Recycle Program has since given way to the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation's Charge Up to Recycle! voluntary take-back program for Ni-Cd batteries. Sanyo was also one of the founding members of the Portable Rechargeable Battery Association.