Consumers demand transparency on the origin of heavy metals used in batteries

ThinkstockPhotos-676364004 Credit: Think Stock Photos

Bellona believes Norway should be pushing to establish an international system for tracking materials used in batteries. Nickel, which is produced in large amounts at highly polluting plants close to the Norwegian border with Russia, remains an important component in many batteries.

“There are many environmental sinners among these who manufacture battery materials used in electric vehicles. These sinners must be exposed” says Bellona’s advisor on Russian affairs, Oskar Njaa.

He is the author behind Bellona’s recently published report about Nornickel and the Kola Peninsula, which has been a huge concern for both environmentalists and the general public for decades.

OskarNjaa Bellona advisor Oskar Njaa Credit: Bellona

Great promises

Bellona’s demands come in connection with recent promises from the Russian company Nornickel, which has promised to reduce production and emissions from the plants at the Norwegian border by 90% within 2023.

Nornickel has repeatedly broken promises to cut emissions from the highly polluting plants . This time, Bellona hopes that the promises will be followed up. Not least because of increased market demand for greener electric vehicle production.

Earlier last year, Nornickel announced a partnership with Germany’s battery producer BASF. But many prime electric vehicle producers, Tesla and Volvo among them, have long said they won’t buy materials for their green cars from companies that are trashing the environment.

Lack of traceability

Nickel, which is produced in large quantities at the Norwegian-Russian border, remains an important component in many batteries.

“For consumers, it’s becoming increasingly important to buy environmentally friendly vehicles, so it’s important for electric vehicle manufacturers to choose cleaner materials for their batteries,” says Oskar Njaa.

In order to make the materials traceable, Bellona believes that Norway should work to establish an international framework.

“It may start with labeling in the first place, to make products traceable back to the manufacturer. This can again be followed up with a more specific form of evaluation of different manufacturers, as well as eco-labelling of raw materials and the products containing the material” says Njaa.

Nornickel at the Norwegian-Russian border Credit: Thomas Nilsen

Possibility to choose

As the environmental requirements for different products increase, this will have an impact on the standards required throughout the production chain.

“Traceability will make it possible to select the manufacturers that do the most to avoid negative effects of production, and will lead to a clear financial incentive to invest in technology development and environmental protection solutions. It requires, however, transparency that does not exist today”, concludes Njaa.

Background:

The mining industry at the Kola Peninsula has for decades been one of the most polluting industries in the Arctic. Sulfur dioxide and heavy metals are released into the air and pollute groundwater and water streams in the area. These high pollution levels have also led to major protests in Norway, where polluted air gets blown in from the Russian side of the border. One of the most famous action groups was “Stop the Soviet Death Shadows”, which was launched in 1990.

By 2015, the two plants closest to the Norwegian-Russian border had a sulfur dioxide emission of 80,000 tonnes, corresponding to almost five times as much as Norway’s total emissions that same year.

 

 

Bellona Europa

europe@bellona.org