Four industry bodies representing the lead and lead battery industries have launched a programme to combat substandard and informal lead battery recycling in low-to-middle-income countries (LMICs).
The programme is known as LeadBattery360° and includes principles agreed upon among the associations in 2020. They include the International Lead Association (ILA), Battery Council International (BCI), EUROBAT and the Association of Battery Recyclers. It is designed to promote and recognise best practices in the responsible management of lead throughout the lead battery value chain – from mining to battery manufacturing and recycling.
The quartet said lead batteries operate in a closed loop in Europe and the US, with up to 99% of spent batteries being collected and recycled. But in some poor countries, there is a flourishing industry in informal recycling, where ignoring the regulations is the norm.
Programme director Dr Steve Binks of the ILA said: “We all want to see an end to informal and substandard battery recycling and manufacturing where it exists, and this initiative aims to help countries where this is a problem improve through practical support and sharing best practice.”
As worldwide demand continues to grow, the initiative will promote ethically sound battery recycling and manufacturing with these principles:
- Environmental health and safety excellence
- Continuous improvement targets
- Adoption of responsible sourcing policies
- Minimising environmental impact
- Promotion of human and labour rights, work against corruption
- Transparently engaging key stakeholders.
US charity Pure Earth of New York estimates that “hundreds of millions” of children are being poisoned every day by lead. They ingest and inhale dust from informal used lead-acid battery recycling operations, eating lead-infused spices and food contaminated by pottery with leaded glazes. They may live in homes with peeling lead paint or work alongside their parents to salvage lead and other heavy metals from e-waste.
Pure Earth calculates, from an economic standpoint, childhood lead exposure and the resultant intelligence degradation costs LMICs in Africa, Asia, the Latin Americas and the Caribbean to be almost $977 billion in annual GDP losses ($1.1 trillion in 2020).
It estimates that there may be over 12 million substandard or informal used lead-acid battery recyclers who are poisoning themselves, their children and their communities.