By Antonio Elio Brailovsky
We start from a certain fact, which is the presence of hazardous materials in the composition of these products, which are diffused in ecosystems when they are discarded in an inappropriate way.
The issue enters the public agenda based on complaints from social movements that highlighted the absence of public policies for a reliable provision of them throughout the world. A Google search for contamination of water and batteries returns more than 600,000 results, much more than other pollutants with a higher health risk (because they affect higher volumes of drinking water), such as nitrates and arsenic.
There are countless environmental aggressions that are comparable to batteries, but batteries have a characteristic that makes it easier for individual action behaviors to be triggered, and that is that they allow the victim to be blamed.
Thanks to media pressure - sometimes interested - millions of users feel responsible for the batteries that they have to dispose of with the common garbage because they do not offer them a better alternative. This covert publicity has diverted attention from those truly responsible for this contamination.
A suggestive aspect of today's economy is the strategy of many international companies to shorten the useful life of the products they offer, in order to be able to sell the same product several times. Mobile electricity (that is, cells and batteries) constitutes one of the most emblematic fields in which this strategy is developed.
The circulating information is so confusing that a web page of the National Ministry of the Environment says that in the City of Buenos Aires and Greater Buenos Aires "common and alkaline batteries can be disposed of together with common garbage", while the Environmental Agency of the City says exactly the opposite: "they should not be disposed of with household waste."
There are many teachers who fell into the trap and made their students collect used batteries. But a pile is a dangerous waste. It can only be handled by specialized personnel, never by children. And a school is the worst place imaginable to accumulate hazardous waste.
Those in the best conditions to treat used batteries are those with industrial facilities to manufacture them. Only public awareness of this fact will allow progress in management responses that include the main responsible parties.
Public policies are necessary that oblige the companies that sell them to take charge of the used batteries for their destruction under controlled conditions. Applying the principle of extended producer responsibility does not mean (as it is done now) enabling a few reception points to be able to publish a photograph in the media. It means ordering by law that used batteries be received at each point of sale and that the companies bear all the costs of logistics and treatment of these hazardous waste.
To analyze the implications of the issue and its possible responses, I have published a report on the environmental management of used cells and batteries within the framework of the Environmental Observatory of the Ombudsman's Office of the City of Buenos Aires, which is in my charge. Alejandro Amor, Ombudsman of the City warns that: “It will not be possible to achieve a healthy environment for our neighbors if the hazardous waste disposed of in the City - such as used batteries - lacks a sustainable treatment. The local state is in debt in the matter of polluting sources. This first report from the Environmental Observatory and the initiatives it promotes are a first step towards paying off a debt that affects the environmental rights of all the neighborhoods of our city ”.
Regarding the functions of the Observatory, points out Bárbara Rossen, Undersecretary of Urban Rights, Public Space and Environment of the Ombudsman's Office: “Our Environmental Observatory will function as a forum for the production of information and analysis, which develops adequate and timely information on urban environmental issues. , identifying priority and emerging issues through research and consultative processes, and promoting dialogue between social partners, companies located in the jurisdiction, the State and civil society.
My report on "Environmental management of used cells and batteries". They can download it for free from the Ombudsman's website or from this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8dkt1ksxltpk4p8/Gesti%C3%B3n%20ambiental%20de%20Pilas%20y%20Baterias.pdf?dl=0
If the link doesn't seem to work, they copy it, paste it at the top of their browser (Google or whatever they use) and hit enter. It may take a while to open or download, depending on the state of the Internet connection.
The image adopted by environmental groups to demand that companies take charge of the pollution they generate. They are the emblematic dolls of several companies that manufacture batteries, which, tired of having to stand up for irresponsible corporations, demand that whoever makes them pay for it.
Antonio Elio Brailovsky