2021-03-23 08:40 Share:  Facebook Instagram

Survey: The current galvanic cell collection system is working – we have more opportunities than required by law

Survey: The current galvanic cell collection system is working – we have more opportunities than required by law

In 2030, in accordance with the requirements of the European Union, at least 70% of the waste galvanic cells entering the market of our country will have to be collected and disposed of in Lithuania. At present, this amount is 46%, which is just one percent more than required by law.

Sceptics are worried about such predictions – feared that the achievement of ambitious targets for the management of this hazardous waste in a decade could be a complex task without the implementation of a new galvanic cell collection system. However, experts say that there is no need to wait for 2030: such the EU requirement can be easily implemented by hazardous waste management facilities today, already now in Lithuania it is possible to collect almost twice more galvanic cells and batteries than is collected.

Residents know where to throw galvanic cells

"The current galvanic cell collection system works perfectly, it is only important to use it properly. There is no point in investing in a new collection system or special reverse vending machine for batteries and cells – already 8 out of 10 people throw away batteries where needed," Vitoldas Sapožnikovas, the Director of Žalvaris, the largest hazardous and non-hazardous waste management facility in Lithuania, says. The fact that the current galvanic cell collection system is working is also based on the Spinter public opinion survey commissioned by Žalvaris, which sought to find out the efficiency of the infrastructure of the current system and the habits of the population to use it. During the survey, the residents were asked how they typically get rid of used galvanic cells and old batteries. The results showed that even 80% of the respondents know how to throw away such waste properly and use the system successfully. And only less than a fifth of the residents (17%) still throw batteries in household waste containers.

"Even 59% of the respondents mentioned that they throw galvanic cells in waste collection points in supermarkets, others throw such waste in special galvanic cell collection boxes in apartment buildings (7%), part of the residents has such boxes in their houses (7%) and delivers to a waste management facility by themselves when fill them in. The residents also leave galvanic cells at their collection points at petrol stations (6%),” V. Sapožnikovas says.

Women, respondents aged 36 and over, and representatives of the highest education group more frequently named throwing such batteries and cells at such waste collection points in supermarkets. Throwing to the household waste container were more often named by residents of rural areas.

Education is the most important

According to the Director of Žalvaris, the survey only confirms the need to invest more in public education, not in changing the battery and cell waste management system, especially since the population itself classifies public education and promotion of environmental protection as one of the most important environmental initiatives – this is the opinion of 44% of the respondents. Other key initiatives are sorting (41%), the use of alternative energy sources (38%), energy saving (32%), investment in waste management and the promotion of the circular economy (31%) and water conservation (28%).

At present, waste management facilities and associations are involved in the collection of galvanic cells, through which manufacturers and importers fund the collection and disposal of galvanic cells imported and entering the domestic market. Waste management facilities which have collected and disposed of galvanic cells must provide importers with supporting documentation of this disposal.

The number of collection boxes increases every year

According to V. Sapožnikovas, relatively small quantities of galvanic cells and batteries enter the Lithuanian market – about 500-600 tons of such waste is generated per year, and about 60% is disposed of annually by Žalvaris.

"We are constantly investing in the collection of galvanic cells: we provide galvanic cell collection boxes free of charge to residents and business entities throughout Lithuania, which currently have approximately 14,000 batteries in various cities and districts of the country. About 10 thous. is used in apartment buildings, 1.3 thous. – in stores and supermarkets, 2.4 thous. – in offices and commercial premises, about 300 – in petrol stations and 100 – in educational institutions," the talker comments.

Žalvaris is also taking additional initiatives: last year, in addition to funding from manufacturers and importers, it collected and disposed of 20 tons more waste galvanic cells and batteries through its battery collection infrastructure than was desired by manufacturers and importers.

Potential more than expected

"The capacity of the current system is significantly higher than the tasks for handling galvanic cells. With the system already working, we can easily ensure even greater accessibility of this infrastructure to residents by expanding into smaller towns – by offering to install galvanic cell collection boxes in to their apartment buildings and educational institutions. It is simply not worthwhile to invest in a processing plant or, even more, to develop a new system for the collection of this waste, the existing market is clearly too small,” V. Sapožnikovas is convinced.

According to him, a newly developed system for the collection and recycling of such hazardous waste would require millions of investments and the quantities of recyclable cells would not be repurchased in decades.

"Several hundred tons of waste per year are too little amount. To make the system work, much larger quantities would have to be collected and processed, but we do not have them in Lithuania. We are able to collect and handle galvanic elements more than we think, we just need to talk about it and educate the public,” the Director of Žalvaris says.

A representative survey of the Lithuanian population, during which 1,014 respondents were interviewed, was conducted in February 2021 by the market and public opinion research company Spinter tyrimai.