Is India doing enough on the policy front to make EV truly green?

Recycling of E-waste and lithium-ion batteries is a topic of concern, even if it doesn’t seem as an immediate requirement. It is the crucial aspect of the EV infrastructure that will act as a portal to create a sustainable loop. With the growing demand of Batteries, we are piling up e-waste which will, after a decade long use of EV’s, become an obstacle unless India addresses it today. To understand what can be done, let’s have a look at what other key markets have done/doing to tackle this issue.

In almost all major EV markets, a regulatory body/framework has been established to create accountability and clearly defined targets for particular stakeholders. For example, The European union created a battery directive as a part Sustainable Development goals, in 2006, to ensure contribution of EU members to minimise battery waste. Under the mandate of the battery directive, battery manufacturers and importers had to collect 25% of used batteries in the market by 2012 and 45% batteries by 2016. Of these, the targets for 2012 were met by most EU members, but the targets for 2016 were too ambitious. By 2014, only 7 member states had achieved the 45% collection target.

The European Union has also prohibited the dumping of E-waste in landfills. Furthermore, for recycling different types of batteries, the directive mandates specific minimum percentage (in weight) to be utilised for recycling each type of battery.

Similarly in USA, the Standards for Universal Waste Management is a regulatory body that prohibits dumping of batteries in landfills. Different states in the United States are enforcing regulations for battery recycling. However, not much is being done to define percentage of resource recovery from batteries for recycling.

China’s issued draft policy of 2017 has created a framework that holds vehicle OEM’s and battery manufacturers and importers collectively responsible for ensuring that recycling channels, service outlets and a traceable network is created for making battery recycling an easy process for consumers. OEM’s need to be trained by battery manufacturers in dismantling and installing batteries in vehicles while making sure that the process is made easy enough to be automated.

In Japan, since 2000, battery recycling process is being handled through the use of a standardised three arrow recycling mark indicating battery type and primary metal components which helps identify batteries to be collected on reaching end-of-life. Japan has also set a recycling target of minimum 30% and has designated the battery manufacturers to take care of the same.

India, is sadly not doing enough to encourage EV battery recycling and infact e-waste recycling as well. So far there is no clear policy framework, although we have made an official commitment at the UN Climate Change Conference at Glasgow this year to achieve a net-zero emissions target by 2070. How are we going to manage this if all we do is to offer tax sops to recyclers? Moreover, if India does not formulate a no nonsense policy for e-waste management and battery recycling, we are going to run short of rare earth metals like Cobalt, Lithium and Nickel. Our dependency on imports will increase by the day. Lack of strict rules will increase toxic waste being dumped into the soil and rivers, contaminating them, which will further increase the release of polluting cases. Ironic isn’t it?

However, there are private companies like Attero taking up the mantle and working on technologies to extract rare earth metals from battery and e-waste. Attero has tied up with electric vehicles OEM’s such as MG Motors, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Tata Motors and more. There are other companies like Nunam that work on recycling electric batteries to make smaller batteries that can be re-used by street vendors in lamps. We need more stakeholders to come forward and muscle up the recycling capacity of the local market. However, the government being the leader has to come up with SMART (Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) objectives to look upto.

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