I became aware of this extremely cool, and innovative technology last year, during my MBA program. I was so excited that I went ahead to study more about this great product, as it was more environmentally friendly as compared to the normal alkaline batteries (Duracell etc.) that we use everyday.
Recently (in 1996), Mercury (a very harmful heavy metal) used in the batteries was phased out because it had extreme adverse effects on the health and the environment. Just to give the rough estimate, as per the report generated by the household Universal Waste Generation in California (United States), in August 2002, there was close to 507 million batteries sold and only 0.55% batteries were recycled. This figure is just in California, imagine a similar figure in all 50 states in the U.S., and then all around the globe.
Let us look at the composition of the alkaline batteries and their impacts on human health:
- Potassium Hydroxide: Acts as the electrolyte, but usually when the charge of the battery finishes, the battery starts leaking (often a white powder can be seen). This causes respiratory, eyes and skin irritation.
- Manganese Dioxide: 500,000 tons are used as a cathode annually. It can slightly stain human skin if it is damp or in a heterogenous mixture.
- Powdered Zinc: Used as anode doesn’t have a direct impact. But the high demands of alkaline batteries requires great amount of Zinc. In the developing countries billions of people suffers from zinc deficiency. In children it causes growth retardation, infection susceptibility and diarrhea, contributing to the death of about 800,000 children worldwide per year.
Talking about The LCA of the alkaline batteries, it revealed that a lot of Primary Energy is needed through various phases/stages. The main Stages mainly consisting of:
- Extraction of Materials and processing (types of materials and quantities)
- Manufacturing Facility (Energy consumption and waste produced)
- Packaging (Materials, energy consumption and waste produced)
- Shipping & Logistics (Transportation distances)
- Disposal (End of life)
At the end of the life batteries are either sent to Landfill and Incineration. which are a big no these days, has its own serious threat because of huge environmental impacts:
- Harmful GHG emissions
- The heavy metals seeps into the water table.
There is another way, the government is trying to recycle these batteries. But after watching to this video:
I believe that the recycling is equally harmful to the environment because:
- High energy & water required to convert to the base metals
- Emissions and pollution
Water Activated Batteries – The Solution
The various components of the water activated batteries are the following. All these complement each other and make the battery the lightest in the world (12 grams), and environment friendly which is far more efficient to recycle:
- Planet Friendly Raw Materials: These batteries uses recycled sustainable plastic as the casing and the membrane (prevent the active powders from dispersing whilst allowing water to be added to the battery when being activated), Carbon stick as cathode. Most of the heavy metals and other dangerous materials such as Potassium Hydroxide commonly found in ordinary batteries have also been removed, and instead active powder is used as electrolyte which consists of natural substance such as carbon- also found in our body. That means less impact on the environment and preservation of resources.
- Responsible Manufacturing: The specialized production facility is designed to operate with the least amount of waste. It provides a clean and healthy working environment for the people in the plant. And because water is not needed as part of the production process, water pollution is also eliminated at the source – something that presents a serious issue for regular battery manufacturers.
- Keeping it Green – Again and Again: The collection of used batteries is actively promoted. Independently certified by Batrec to meet the high standard of recycling efficiency. It is ensured that the materials used can find a way back to produce fresh batteries – over and over again. The custom designed O-ring in combination with screw-cap, provides an air-tight sealing of the battery. This makes the batteries completely leak-proof, even when drained below 0.8V or left in a product for extensive period of time.
- Proof: An independent Life Cycle Analysis of the product has been done, comparing the environmental impact of these battery versus a standard Alkaline battery. The SGS © certified results shows that the water activated batteries compared on a functional equivalent have a significant lesser impact on the environment compared to the standard alkaline batteries.
- Working for a better Future: While these batteries are cleaner then ordinary batteries, improvements are still being made. The companies are continuously looking for more sustainable ways of sourcing the materials, transparent life cycle from cradle to grave, sharing the news of continued improvements and innovation.
Since the users are now more aware about the products they use, this product is a disruptive innovation and now the only challenge in front of companies like Aquacell is how to go mainstream and have a sustainable growth.
Disclaimer: The Image and content is used only for Educational Purpose