China’s recycling rate for lead-acid battery scrap is less than 30% as the recycling industry remains in a disordered state, the country’s Economic Information Daily reported.
China produces over 2.6m tonnes of lead-acid battery scrap a year, less than 30% of which are formally recycled while the rest are disposed randomly, creating great environmental hazard, according to the report.
In March 2013, five Chinese ministries issued a document that said the rate of standardized recycling of waste lead-acid storage battery would reach 90% by 2015. The proportion of lead-acid reclaimed in developed countries is usually more than 95%.
Almost 900 000 tonnes of waste acid containing lead from lead-acid storage batteries entered the environment untreated from 2008 to 2012, polluting the air, water and soil, said Cao Guoqing, deputy secretary-general of the China Battery Industry Association.
“Of the 40-some companies qualified to handle hazardous waste nationwide, only five are authorized to transport and dispose of waste lead-acid storage batteries,” Cao said. “But more than half of the waste batteries go to illegal dealers, polluting the environment after they are dismantled haphazardly.”
Yang Xiaoming, a senior engineer from the Policy Research Center for Environment and Economy, said the main problem is not the small number of legal recyclers, but the huge price difference between legal and illegal dealers, which prompts most waste batteries to be sold to the latter.
“The purchase price offered by illegal dealers can be as high as 7 000 yuan ($1 150) per metric tonne, but if my price is higher than 4 000 yuan per tonne, I’ll start losing money considering the 200m yuan investment I spent on equipment and running costs,” said Wan Xuejie, deputy general manager of Shanxi Jitaly Science and Technology Co.
The business of collecting waste batteries nationwide and recycling them remains unprofitable, added Wan.