Diagnosis of the final disposal of batteries in Toluca, Mexico

Diagnosis of the final disposal of batteries in Toluca, Mexico

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Batteries represent one of the biggest problems for their final disposal as hazardous solid waste since they are generated as household waste and are not considered risk since they are commonly used. Once their useful life is over, they reach the dumps without any treatment; This puts ecosystems and the surrounding population at risk due to the content of heavy metals.


Man generates waste product of his daily activities, which can represent a risk to health and ecosystems. Piles are examples of this type of waste, so this work presents a diagnosis for their final disposal in the ZMVT, through a quantitative-qualitative methodological scheme. The results showed an inadequate disposal of the same, which leads to contamination of the site and is a source of exposure to hazardous waste.


Batteries represent one of the biggest problems for their final disposal as hazardous solid waste since they are generated as household waste and are not considered risk since they are commonly used. Once their useful life is over, they reach the dumps without any treatment; This puts the ecosystems and the surrounding population at risk due to the content of heavy metals. That is why, for a few decades, they have tried to eliminate toxic components, reduce and regulate their disposal or generate recycling alternatives to minimize their impact on their final disposal. Countries such as the US and the European Community have developed management programs through the associations of the same manufacturing or importing companies that develop these plans, such as the Rechargable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), or the European Battery Recycling Association (EBRA) , and European Portable Battery Association (EPBA). Plans in this regard are envisioned in Latin America, but not in a coordinated manner among the various actors involved, as well as specific legislation or concrete management plan actions. (REPAMAR, 2001).

According to Díaz and Díaz Arias (2004), it is calculated that in Mexico the average generation of cells and batteries used annually in the last seven years has been around 35,500 tons; which would be equivalent to about 0.12 percent of the total of 3,598,315 tons / year of municipal waste generated in our country and reported by the Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL, 1999). This allows estimating a generation of 10 batteries / inhabitant / year or approximately 400 grams / inhabitant / year, of which 30% would contain toxic materials that makes them consider as hazardous waste, a fact that tends to increase due to the increase in the consumption of products battery operated. In the Metropolitan Area of ​​the Valley of Toluca there is a high amount of battery sales, which once their useful life is over, will be given to municipal dumps as part of household solid waste (Montes de Oca and Gómez González, 2007). The average consumption of batteries in this area, estimated based on the work of CASTRO DÍAZ, and data of the economically active population from INEGI 2006, an approximate average of 8.520.830 battery units / year, same that go to municipal dumps.

Stacks are generally composed of; potassium hydroxide, zinc, silver oxide, carbon, graphite, ammonium chloride, iron, nickel and largely by toxic metals such as; cadmium, mercury, lithium, lead and manganese, therefore, exposure to them can cause adverse effects on living beings (ATSDR, 2005).

Effects of some metals present in batteries on the health of living beings

The Mercury : represents a potential hazard when found in organic compounds as it can bioaccumulate and present systemic effects such as; Renal and central nervous system affections. According to the IARC, it belongs to the type 2B carcinogenic group (Von and Greenwood, 1991).

Cadmium: When you breathe in high concentrations, it injures the lungs and ingesting it either through contaminated water or other types of food, causes irreparable damage to the kidneys. It is carcinogenic type A according to IARC (Wren, et al, 1995).

Lithium: it is neurotoxic and nephrotoxic, it produces respiratory failure, myocardial depression, pulmonary edema and stupor (Peral, 1992).

The Lead: it damages the nervous system, the kidneys and the reproductive system, organic compounds can be transformed and it bioaccumulates. (Moeller, 1999).

Bioaccumulative metals imply the contamination of the entire food chain, and in this way to the populations near the landfills that do not comply with the minimum environmental and health requirements required, either through direct or indirect exposure. Recent research (Montes de Oca and Gómez González, 2007) report annual loads of 12 kg of lead, 7 kg of mercury and 2 kg of cadmium from batteries in landfills, highlighting the fact that “mercury and cadmiun free” possess concentrations of these metals.

Contamination by batteries can be caused by the corrosion of their casings caused by the internal effect of their components, by climatic action and by the fermentation process of the garbage, especially organic matter, which by raising its temperature in the process of Composting act as a trigger for the source of contamination. (CEPIS, 2005). An example of the tests that were carried out to determine the pressure necessary to cause leaks in the batteries is the application of a force of 25 to 199 kg / cm2 (Montes de Oca and Gómez González, 2007). Considering that most of the population prefers to buy cheap batteries, which are manufactured under minimum safety standards, and that can deteriorate more easily, it is to be assumed that toxic components are easily released into landfills due to the pressure exerted in the compaction of waste.

Therefore, the objective of this work was to develop a diagnosis of the final disposal of batteries in the ZMVT within the framework of risk identification in garbage dumps, so that it serves as a basis for later proposing final disposal alternatives of this type of waste, and develop a comprehensive management plan, thus contributing to the generation of adequate and optimal environmental management policies. It is based on the fact that batteries are considered toxic waste, so they must receive a differentiated treatment of The other garbage, although it originates from household solid waste, has proven the effects on health and the environment of its components, which is why it is justified to take action measures to reduce, mitigate the risk it represents.


The study was carried out in the Metropolitan Area of ​​the Toluca Valley (See fig. 1) comprised of the municipalities of Toluca, Lerma, Metepec, Zinacantepec and San Mateo Atenco, of which the total garbage dumps were analyzed as part of the Field work.

The methodology used is framed within a quantitative-qualitative methodological scheme, based on an exhaustive bibliographic review on the geographical characteristics of the area to establish comparisons, as well as the location of the dumps and the visits to them.

The methodology was divided into two phases (Fig. 2), the first corresponds to bibliographic research that starts with the location and geographical location of the dumps in the area, to later identify the following geographical characteristics of the place; average temperature in summer and winter, atmospheric pressure, humidity, as well as wind speed and direction, which are climatic factors that influence the mobility of pollutants. Edaphology was also considered to locate the type of soil on which the dumps are located and the location of the aquifers, both deep wells and surface water currents.

The amount of batteries was determined based on the work of CASTRO DÍAZ, 2004 and the economically active population of the ZMVT (INEGI, 2006) based on the average of generated waste generated in tons and the average weight of the batteries. To obtain the data on the physical-chemical characteristics of the metals, mercury was considered in its form of mercury oxide (chemical form present in batteries), cadmium, lead and lithium and were prepared with information extracted from the base of data from IRIS (Integrated Risk Information System), EPA, and toxicological profiles from ATSDR. They were considered in order to know the intrinsic factors of these elements that influence their mobility, bioaccumulation and toxicity.

In the second phase, field work was carried out in order to observe the situation of the dumps by applying the table of standards proposed by PAHO (2003) and the interview with the technical operators was carried out considering 75% of the total, for which which simple random random sampling was used.


Study area and location of the dumps.

Geographic location

The ZMVT is located in the central part of the State of Mexico; it borders to the north with the municipalities of Almoloya de Juárez, Temoaya, Otzolotepec and Jilotzingo, to the south with Coatepec Harinas, Ocuilan, Tenango del Valle, Calimaya, Mexicalcingo, Tianguistenco and Capulhuac; to the east with the Federal District, Huixquilucan and Naucalpan, and to the west with Almoloya de Juárez, Amanalco and Temascaltepec, at 2,660 m above sea level (See figure 3), its extreme geographical coordinates being the following: (Clean Air Program of Toluca, 2007)

Maximum latitude 19 ° 27 ’46’ ’, minimum 19 ° 03 ′ 52’ ’

Maximum length 19 ° 03 '52' ', minimum 99 ° 19' 06 ''

In the ZMVT 3 dumps were identified; one under the open sky in Metepec, another in Lerma, and the third in Zinacantepec. In this area there is no selective waste collection system in the municipalities, so the batteries are deposited where all types of garbage go, increasing the probability of chemical reactions of metals in contact with other types of waste, especially organic garbage.

Geographic Characteristics of the Study Area.

The geographical aspects that prevail over the ZMVT in summary form are presented in Table 1.

The geographical conditions of the area influence the probability of transformation and transport of the metals released from the piles, from the dump to the surrounding areas. The temperature and wind speed are not relevant for the mobility of pollutants since the average annual temperature is 10 ° to 17 ° C and the wind has an average speed of 4m / s. However, the location of the dumps on permeable soil and aquifers can influence the migration of toxic components to bodies of water, or transport them to a biological environment in the surrounding ecosystems.

Volume of waste generated in the Study Area and its relationship with the batteries.

Approximately 90 tons / day of garbage are generated in the area, which represents an annual discharge of 32,850 tons of which 486.18 tons correspond to piles (Fig. 4). This amount is deposited in dumps that do not meet the minimum mitigation conditions. The batteries contain at least 30% of their total weight in toxic elements, representing a significant risk to health and ecosystems, so that nearby populations are exposed, being those living within the exclusion area vulnerable.

Physical-chemical characteristics of the metals present in batteries

The data on the physicochemical characteristics of metals (HgO, Pb, Li and Cd) are shown in Table 2.

In the results presented in the table, it can be seen according to the vapor pressure values ​​of the analyzed metals that there is a probability that they will evaporate at room temperature, since this is an important determinant of the volatilization rate. into the air, from the soil of the dumps or contaminated surface water bodies.Although solubility is not relevant, it is known that chemical agents that are not very soluble in water are absorbed with high affinity to soils, and if the characteristics of this allow it, they can have leached into deeper layers. According to the value of Henry's Law constant, the metals present in the cells will evaporate preferentially in the air before dissolving in water since it indicates the degree of volatility in a solution. Also, the Koc shows the adsorption tendency by soils or organic sediments, so the fact that metals are retained in the soil layer will depend on its characteristics in terms of organic matter load. The fact that they present a Kow Relatively high since it indicates the affinity for fatty tissues, which would allow bioaccumulation in living beings present in the area in case of contact by any means.

On the other hand, the presence of microorganisms in the organic decomposition of the garbage can alter these characteristics due to the possibility of transformation processes originating organometallic compounds that are more toxic, together with the geographical characteristics of the area, especially the presence of bodies of water and the type of soil, permeable clayey and rich in organic matter.

Field work

In the observation carried out in the field work, only indicators of minimum conditions were applied that, according to PAHO's criteria, must meet a final disposal site for urban solid waste. The observed results are presented in Tables 3 and 4.

In the field work, the observation of the dumps in relation to the standards established by PAHO, yield negative results for which they do not meet the minimum conditions established to be considered sanitary landfills, since they are open-air dumps that are at the weather, so the waste is exposed to the climatic factors of the area, coupled with the fact that it does not have covering material and in terms of useful life the disposal sites are saturated in a limited time.

On the other hand, only three municipalities have officially recognized dumps, so the Cleaning Service does not comply and does not cover 100% of the collection and disposal of waste. Waste separation is not carried out in the confinement area, the garbage is deposited on the site after compaction. Regarding mitigation measures, these are insufficient or do not have them, except for the internal circulation routes, the others are not observed and the lack of leachate control stands out, considering the location of these sites on bodies of water.

As these sites do not meet the required conditions in relation to the geographical characteristics and the volume of batteries generated, it is determined that they represent sources of contamination and dispersion of all types of pollutants such as the metals contained in the batteries and the probability of rupture of the batteries. the protective casing with the consequent leakage of the metals contained therein.

The landfills do not have environmental monitoring systems, biogas control or leachate recirculation channel, so the liquid generated in the place possibly drains into the groundwater table, increasing the possibility of contamination of nearby bodies of water. , taking into account the type of soil and their location in populated areas, which can be an important source of exposure for the surrounding populations.

In the interview, the technical operators (Fig. 5) show that there are also no disposal systems for batteries, which indicates that they actually go together with the other waste, enhancing chemical reactions and greater probability of breaking the safety shells due to the fermentation of organic waste especially, which in turn causes a considerable increase in temperature (GTZ, 2001) reaching 70 ° C.

By relating the geographical characteristics of the area with the physical-chemical properties of the metals present in the batteries and the conditions of the disposal site, the risk that the disposal of this type of waste presents under these conditions can be inferred for the people living within the exclusion zone and for the ecosystems The location of the aquifers is a relevant element considering that 48 wells were located from which water is extracted for consumption by the population, and that the dumps are settled on groundwater tables, in which soil conditions also influence, since the phaeozem, haplic, luvic is clayey and permeable, which facilitates dispersion conditions as there is no control of leachate. So much so that the metals from the batteries run off along with the liquid from the other garbage, and can contaminate the aquifers. Although the wind speed is not considerable, the presence of valleys and mountains in the region causes different atmospheric pressures and dynamism of the air currents, which cause pollutants drag and possible sedimentation in the nearby soils. In the same way, being an open-air dump, the piles are outdoors, so that the climatic conditions or the rainwater (annual average of 700mm, in summer), causes the dragging of pollutants towards lower areas and The three landfills are in relatively higher areas than the nearby towns, due in large part to the accumulation of garbage, so the contamination mechanism would be given as shown in Fig. 6.


There is no adequate disposal for batteries in the ZMVT so they are deposited in municipal dumps, which do not comply with the standards established by PAHO. The quantity of batteries that are thrown away represents a risk to the population due to the conditions of the disposal site, since there is a probability that under the geographic conditions of the place the toxic elements contained in the batteries will be released. For this reason, the need to generate comprehensive waste management policies for the disposal of batteries arises.


Estelvina Rodríguez Portillo: Degree in Natural Sciences and Health, Master's Student in Environmental Sciences

Araceli Amaya Chávez: Bachelor's Degree in Industrial Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Master's Degree in Ecology and Ph.D. in Biological Chemical Sciences, Research Professor at the UAEMex Faculty of Chemistry.

Arturo Colín Cruz: Bachelor of Pharmacobiologist Chemist, Master of Ecology and Doctorate in Engineering, Coordinator of Research and Advanced Studies of the Faculty of Chemistry of the UAEmex; Autonomous University of the State of Mexico, Faculty of Chemistry.


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B.W. Stewart. USA, (2003).

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Montez de Oca A. and Gómez González E. Development of a methodology to reduce the environmental impact of discarded electric batteries. Bachelor's Thesis, Autonomous University of the State of Mexico, Toluca, Mexico. 2007.

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Figures and Tables

Fig. 1. Location of the Toluca Valley Metropolitan Area

Source: Government of the State of Mexico, Edomex

Fig. 2- Diagram of the Methodology used.

Fig. 3. Geographic location of the dumps in the area

Table 1. Geographical characteristics of the ZMVT.

Temperature*It fluctuates between 14 ° C. Maximum of 28 ° C, and Minimum -3.5 ° C.
Pressure*Different pressures and dynamism of currents.
Wind*Southern trade winds, predominant. The highest recorded mean is 4m / s
Humidity *Relatively dry. 40 to 70%.
Edaphology**Permeable clayey.
Aquifers **The entire ZMVT is based on an aquifer.

Source: Own elaboration based on data obtained by RAMA and HIDALGO (2003)

* Data extracted from the registry of the ZMVT Atmospheric Monitoring Network (RAMA, 2006)

** Thesis Faculty of Geography (HIDALGO 2003).

Fig. 4 Relationship between the volume of batteries and the volume of waste generated in the ZMVT.

Source: Own elaboration.

Table 2. Physical-chemical characteristics of the metals present in batteries

MetalsWater solubility* Koc* KowVapor pressureHenry's Law Constant
Mercury oxide0.056mg / l16000ml / g75 mg / l0.02mmHg at 21 ° CGreater than 1 x10-3
Lithium (Li)5.97 × 105 mg / L100 to 1000ml / gNo data133 Pa at 723 ° CNo data
Lead (Pb)Insoluble54000ml / g50mg / l10mmHg at 1,025 ° C1 x10-5
CadmiumSlightly soluble60000ml / g65mg / l1mm Hg at 394 ° C3 x 10-7

Source: Own elaboration based on IRIS data, (Integrated Risk Information System)

* Koc: Organic carbon partition coefficient .

* Kow: Octanol - water partition coefficient

Table 3. Aspects of the ZMVT Dumps, according to the standards proposed by PAHO, in relation to minimum design considerations.

Design ConsiderationsMetepec landfillZinacantepec landfillLerma landfill
Design method selectionOpen skyControlled siteOpen sky
Specification of operational parametersWithout covering material; sufficient personnel and machineryWithout covering material; sufficient personnel and machineryWithout covering material; Sufficient personnel and machinery.
Average depth (meters)869 to 8
Useful lifeSaturatedNo data8 years

Source: Own elaboration based on data obtained in field work.

Table 4. Aspects of the ZMVT dumps, according to the standards proposed by PAHO, considering the exclusion zone and mitigation measures, under minimal conditions.

Mitigation measures Metepec Zinacantepec Lerma
Control and management of leachateDoes not haveDoes not haveRecirculation channel
Biogas controlIn projectDoes not haveDoes not have
Control of surface and groundwaterDoes not haveDoes not haveDoes not have
Green cordDoes not haveDoes not haveDoes not have
Access road and circulation routesIn good stateIn good stateOptimal state
Exclusion zone
Proximity to wetlandsNot verifiedNot verifiedNot verified
Water coursesWater wellsWater wellsNot verified
Proximity to fault zones or seismic risksNot verifiedNot verifiedNot verified
Nearest townHousing center 200 metersRural housingHousing center
FacilitiesPig farms and water extraction wellsSmall-scale businessesIndustrial complex
Land usesCorn cropCorn cropNot verified

Source: Own elaboration based on data obtained in field work.

Fig. 5. Results of Interview with technical operators.

Fig. 6 - Mechanism of dispersion of pollutants in landfills.

Video: AA battery??? What you can do with an old AA battery v (July 2022).


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