Reverse Logistics for Batteries in Brazil

The use of batteries is increasing in Brazil with the fast introduction of new electronic devices, generating more concern when it comes to the proper disposal after their life cycle. In this article, we will provide an overview of the reverse logistic process for batteries adopted in Brazil.

The correct disposal of batteries is still inefficient in Brazil when compared to the amount manufactured annually. There is a lack of specific collection points for the product in some regions across Brazil. However, proper disposal of hazardous equipment and materials is becoming an increased concern for manufacturers and consumers, especially with the recent creation of public policies by the government. Batteries are largely used in Brazil and they are at the center of this subject, especially since they are composed mainly of toxic materials.

Currently there are around 1.4 billion batteries sold in Brazil each year, a sum that could be even higher considering that 33% of the batteries sold in the country are smuggled into Brazil illegally or not certified, according to INMETRO, the National Institute of Metrology, Standardisation and Industrial Quality. Only 1% of these batteries are properly collected and recycled in the country, with the high costs being one of the main reasons, which can reach BRL 1000 per tonne of batteries.

Reverse Logistic Process

Recycling of the cadmium and nickel batteries is performed by the company Suzaquim, in the city of Suzano, in the state of São Paulo. Since the country has outdated battery recycling technologies available, companies tend to export batteries composed of other materials, such as lithium, to countries that are able to properly recover the materials. Suzaquim uses the Inmetco recycling process, which is better able to recover a larger variety of materials.

Even with the known limitations, it is considerably easier to find a location for battery disposal than a couple years ago, with around 750 now available in the country. The collection points are not only managed by manufacturers or retailers, but also sometimes by other companies that might have a sustainability agenda as part of their business strategy, such as Santander, GVT, Qualitá and Porto Seguro. Supermarket chains such as Walmart, Carrefour and those from Grupo Pão de Açúcar, are the largest collectors of regular batteries from consumers. The transport between companies and the recycler is made by an authorised service, provided countrywide by GM&C.

Applicable Legislation

Since 1999, a CONAMA, the National Environment Council, resolution made it mandatory for retailers and importers of batteries, and also authorised technical assistance to accept used products and properly store them, to be later sent back to the manufacturer. It is also the responsibility of the manufacturers to conduct research for diminishing the use of toxic materials.

In 2010, the National Solid Waste Policy, or PNRS in Portuguese, reinstated the responsibility for the disposal of batteries. PNRS makes it mandatory for the development and deployment of reverse logistics programmes independently of the public cleaning service, by manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of batteries of any kind. The reverse logistics programme must not add any additional costs to the consumer.

There are no limitations specified for companies not mentioned in these regulations to perform the collection of batteries, as long as they are in compliance with environmental regulations and provide proper disposal points for the product. The batteries must be stored separately, in order to maintain public health and avoid possible contamination, also complying to any recommendations from the manufacturer.

CONAMA strictly forbids the following ways of discarding batteries:

  • Direct disposal in nature, both in rural and urban areas
  • Incineration outdoors, in containers or facilities that may not be adequate according to the legislation
  • Disposal in any area that may come into contact with water, such as rivers, abandoned lots, sewers or flood risk areas

SISNAMA, the National System for the Environment, and other environmental entities are responsible for supervising the compliance of these resolutions. Any other environmental organisation can also adopt additional procedures regarding the activities involved in the reverse logistics process, such as the control, supervision and management of the products.

The reverse logistics plan developed by the importer or manufacturer must be sent for approval to IBAMA, the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, including data regarding the physical/chemical properties of the battery. Note that the battery must be in compliance to the composition limits stated by CONAMA.

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