The project was organized by the Dnipro-based non-profit organization “Batareiky Zdavaytesia!” (play on words meaning Batteries Surrender! or Surrender your Batteries!) with the assistance of dedicated activists and companies.
Over one million batteries were collected in 80 plastic barrels. Activists say that the shipment will save 1600 hectares of land from permanent contamination (approximately 2000 football fields).
One old battery pollutes 16 square metres of land. In addition, heavy metals contained in batteries enter the food chain and cause severe illnesses in humans, especially in children: cancer and different neurological and cardiac disorders.
In Ukraine, tons of used batteries have been accumulated in various points over the decades. In some cases, they are stored in warehouses, but more often they end up in landfills, rivers or the sea. Due to high recycling costs, there have been no efforts to initiate any concrete actions for the disposal of used batteries.
As EU recycling plants need to be paid for recycling old batteries, funds for processing the first 20 tons were collected at Epicentre and Nova Liniya, two major Ukrainian building material retailers, via a corporate social responsibility project launched in December 2019.
Today, the recycling of all batteries collected in these supermarket outlets is funded by battery importers and the battery sales network (as in Europe). The remaining funds to cover recycling costs are provided by responsible companies and organizations that have been collecting batteries in their shops and offices for the past six years.
According to official statistics, 3250 tons of batteries are imported annually to Ukraine. This means that this first shipment represents about 0.5% of all batteries discarded in Ukraine every year.
To address the issue, activists are urging other retailers to follow the example of Epicentre and Nova Liniya, and begin collecting and financing battery recycling. However, they warn of shady waste collection companies that make huge profits in this business by disposing of used batteries in landfills. Liubov Kolosovska, head of the “Batareiky Zdavaytesia!” NGO explains:
“To solve the problem of battery contamination at the national level, MPs must immediately vote for a pro-European waste disposal law, which has already been registered under Number 2207-1. The purpose of the bill is to make corporate social responsibility obligatory for all companies that earn money from the sale of batteries in Ukraine.”
The “Batareiky Zdavaytesia!” NGO was founded in 2013 by three IT specialists in the city of Dnipro. Subsequently, it grew and became a national non-profit organization.
The project is funded by 850 people and 105 companies. The goal for 2020 is to recycle 4% of all used batteries in Ukraine and educate the public so that old batteries do not end up in landfills or rivers.