Of late, there’s been a flurry of movement in the offices of the environment ministry in New Delhi. The final draft of the Battery Waste Management Rules, 2020 has been circulated among government officials and stakeholders for final feedback, A L N Rao exclusively tells The Ken. Rao is the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Delhi-based Exigo Recycling and a council member of the Indian government’s think tank NITI Aayog. It could be notified as early as next week, and is likely to become effective immediately.

While India has had laws governing e-waste governing e-waste GOVERNMENT OF INDIA MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE e-waste (Management) Rules Read more  since 2016, the new draft would be the first time that the government is specifically drawing up procedures for lithium-ion battery recycling. With specific recovery targets, a centralised pan-India portal for all stakeholders to bring in data points, removal of minimum capacity requirements, and green credits for incentivising recycling, the draft law “could pave the way for professional recycling and recyclers becoming the norm,” says Rao.

For decades, India’s electronic waste and battery recycling segment has been dominated by whoever managed to get their hands on e-waste. Daily-wage labourers doubling up as scrap collectors; scrap dealers becoming aggregators and resellers; artisans extracting metals out of waste. All of them trying to maximise whatever slim pickings they could get out of the mammoth electronic recycling industry, which produces about 3 million metric tonnes of waste annually. The draft law could potentially take the scrabble for scrap from the ground level to the top of the heap—straight to businesses such as Exigo, Attero Recycling, and Lohum Cleantech. 

The star of the battle is expected to be the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery, the main component in a host of renewable energy applications, including the electric vehicle (EV). Despite 160 million smartphones selling every year in the country, the opportunity to scale up battery recycling remains limited. Li-ion batteries offer far larger returns. “Recycling one EV car battery would be equivalent to 13,000 smartphone batteries,” says Utkarsh Singh, CEO of lithium recycling startup BatX Energies. 

The Li-ion battery recycling market is estimated to become a billion-dollar industry by 2030, according to renewables consultancy firm JMK Research. At present, the industry is worth about Rs 500 crore ($65 million), says Singh. 

More importantly, it’s the EV revolution that’s set to drive the Li-ion growth. EVs only make up 35% of the Li-ion market. But that’s expected to balloon to 80% by 2030. Within this, it’s the two-wheeler segment that’s likely to be a gamechanger.

AUTHOR

Shruti Sonal

Shruti is a Delhi-based reporter who looks at India's clean energy ecosystem through the lens of the intersection between businesses, policy and environment. She has previously worked with Reuters and Outlook Business.

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