The positives & negatives of the battery market
Ethical Consumer, the independent research group that helps shoppers understand the ethical credentials of products and services, has released a shopper's guide to buying batteries.
The Ethical Consumer recommended buy is Philips (rechargeable batteries). Philips was the only company reviewed not to receive the researchers worst rating for conflict minerals (it received a best rating).
The guide warns shoppers to avoid buying Duracell batteries, highlighting that the owner of the Duracell brand, Berkshire Hathaway, also owns a multitude of companies in problematic industries and scores poorly across the board – with involvement in everything from animal testing to poor environmental reporting and the likely use of tax avoidance strategies.
Philips, GP and Varta battery brands were at the top of the table, whilst Panasonic, Fujitsu and Eneloop were much lower, just ahead of Duracell, which sits at the bottom of the ethi-score table.
Francesca de la Torre, researcher, Ethical Consumer, said: “We know that this year more of us are concerned about the environmental impact of Christmas, and are taking time to consider the gifts we are purchasing as well as the food and drink we’re going to be serving friends and family.
“We also recognise that not every gift bought last Christmas will be ‘green’ or plastic free. If you are doing your shopping and getting those essential items like batteries for new toys and the TV remote, we’ve researched the most ethical battery brands out there. For something so little, the energy used and the materials needed to make batteries, are incredibly environmentally damaging, so it makes sense to shop wisely and make the most ethical choice.”
The research details the environmental impact of extracting the metals used to make batteries, including the growing demand for lithium. Lithium is extracted from brine found under salt flats in places such as Chile, Argentina and Bolivia that have some of the highest concentrations of lithium in the world.
This has seen mining companies flocking to profit from the now highly sought-after element. Serious concerns have been raised by the Indigenous communities living in these areas about how much they share in the benefits from the operations on their land, as well as the possible environmental impacts of extensive mining. In places where water is already scarce, the amount being used by the mining companies can reduce access for local communities as well as contaminate fresh water sources with salt or chemicals.
Francesca De La Torre, continued:
“When it comes to batteries, ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ is a good approach. Remember, all batteries are recyclable; buying rechargeable batteries means you can reuse them multiple times; and it is always useful to question which battery-hungry devices are actually necessary at all.”
The UK has battery-recycling targets set by the EU. The target was met for the first time in 2018, with the UK collecting 17,811 tonnes of used batteries against a target of 17,540. This is thought to have saved around 12,000 tonnes of C02, but it still represents just 45% of all the batteries placed into the market in the previous three years.
Find out more: Full guide
Top picture by welcomia