New! Eco Design and Market Intelligence Notes

Lighting Africa has begun publication of two new series of information Notes, an Eco Design Note and a Market Intelligence Note, for manufacturers of off-grid lighting products.

The Eco Design series will address a series of topics related to the environmental and health dimensions of off-grid lighting product design.

Topics to be covered in the first few issues will include design decisions that can reduce the environmental hazards associated with battery disposal at the end of product life, eye health and safety issues that should be considered when designing LED-based lighting products, environmental benefits linked to the use of lead-free solder, and life cycle greenhouse gas emissions implications of off-grid lighting product design with a comparison to widely used kerosene lighting technologies.

The Market Intelligence series will present results from field studies and other research efforts that are relevant to off-grid lighting market development and product deployment.

The first of this series  presents the findings of a 2011 field study documenting the availability of rechargeable batteries in selected towns and villages in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal and Mali.

This Note, which finds that local availability to replacement batteries for off-grid lighting products is limited in all five countries, could inform manufacturers’ design decisions about battery selection in cases where the goal is to facilitate access to replacements in local and regional supply chains. The information may also point to market opportunities to supply and distribute product-appropriate replacement batteries.

“In the life of an off-grid lighting product the battery is often one of the earliest components to fail. Fortunately, the failure of the battery does not necessarily need to lead to the end of the product’s life,” the Market Intelligence Note states.

The first in the Eco Design  series provides a comparison of the hazards associated with different types of batteries, encouraging manufacturers to design products using the least hazardous batteries.

“By making environmentally sound design choices, manufacturers can prevent toxic battery components from entering the consumer waste stream, protecting both consumers and the environment,” the Note says.

In general, it points out that nickel metal hydride and lithium-based batteries are less toxic than lead acid and nickel cadmium based batteries, though it also notes that all battery types involve some safety and environmental hazards.

“These two battery types exhibit high performance and have a low toxic content, and are the most benign battery types in terms of disposal,” the Eco Design Note says.

It also provides a summary of the potential to safely dispose and recycle the various battery types, highlighting that there are limited disposal and recycling options in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Limited disposal and recycling options for batteries places more responsibility on off-grid lighting product manufacturers to use less toxic battery types in their products,” the note says.

If you have suggestions on future topics on Eco Design, email us at research@lightingafrica.org.