The battery challenge - how to reduce battery waste

Hi everyone,

So much great stuff is being developed here! Currently, the use of technology in conservation has become quite normal. We are all familiar with camera traps and radio telemetry and so much more was developed since.

Most equipment requires some source of energy and in many devices we use (lithium) batteries. Thousands of them are used annually in each field site that’s monitored with camera traps alone. This means millions and millions across the globe each year. Waste management systems with recycling options do not exist everywhere, especially not in developing countries. Batteries end up in the environment and also don’t forget about the impact of mining to obtain the metals and other recourses to manufacture them.  

Although there has been development towards rechargeable batteries, the use of solar panels and other alternative sources of energy, still many batteries are being used. In regions with dense canopy cover, solar panels won’t receive an adequate amount of solar radiation. In colder climates, rechargeable batteries only have very short lifespans. For people working in mountainous areas, solar panels and other equipment are often too heavy to bring up.

Battery run camera traps and other equipment help study and protect biodiversity, but at the same time pose a great risk to what we aim to protect. We should strive to reduce this kind of waste from our conservation work!

I think this comes with various challenges:

  1. To find alternative energy sources to power camera traps and other devices that provide sufficient power, are durable, affordable, not sensitive to theft, easy to use and deploy in the field;
  2. To find ways to make rechargeable batteries last longer, also under cold conditions;
  3. To improve waste management systems to actually deal with battery waste in a more efficient way.

Given the current developments in the electric car industry and tests with power storage systems (power packs / power walls), there has to be a way to translate this to the conservation world. I’m curious to know whether some of you might have put some thought in this already. So, some questions to everyone here

  1. How many batteries are you using – giving a snapshot of the issue
  2. Ideas for solutions –  what emerging tech could help, should we be redesigning cameras or batteries?

What are your ideas, what do you know about current developments in this field, what’s next?

Best regards,
Femke

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