The CEO of a Nigeria-based research centre told BESB on June 5 that the country was seeking official lead battery recycling plants for the expected influx of batteries that will be needed for the 100,000 mini-grids slated for installation by 2023.
Ifeoma Malo (pictured) is the co-founder of the Clean Technology Hub, an energy consultancy that she set up in 2015, which aims to provide Nigerians with sustainable power.
In 2016, Malo was asked to head up the Nigerian branch of Power For All, a global movement that aims to deliver access to energy for people in rural areas that do not have access to reliable power.
Malo says in Nigeria there are 93 million without such access.
“There is going to be a huge amount of batteries coming into the country for these mini-grid installations,” said Malo. “In seven to 10 years’ time these will be reaching their end of life and we don’t have systems in place to deal with them.
“We are working with the government and the ministry of the environment, to create a framework for battery disposal to create some sort of regulatory framework.
“But there is only one official lead battery recycling plant in Nigeria, which is why just 13% of the country’s used lead-acid batteries are recycled properly – the rest are either shipped abroad or recycled in unofficial backyard recycling plants.”
In the study Soil Contamination from Lead Battery Manufacturing and Recycling in Seven African Countries, which was co-authored by the US-based NGO Occupational Knowledge International, 21 soil samples from lead battery recycling sites were tested and found to contain up to up to 140,000 ppm inside the sites and 29,000 parts per million of lead outside.
The US Environmental Agency reckons the safe limit for children is below 80ppm.
“We need to see whether we can get more credible battery recycling plants,” said Malo. “There is a lot of work being done to get energy providers in Nigeria to commit to certain standards when they start up projects. So while the focus is on giving people electricity, it’s also about giving it to them in an environmentally clean way. We are trying to create a model that will suit our local situation.”
The Clean Technology Hub works with various stakeholders, including the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of Nigeria, an NGO that has been focusing on ULAB management for the past four years.
Terseer Ugboh, from REDIN, said the group had launched an extended producer responsibility programme, which had set a template for how renewable energy companies and battery importers and recyclers should manage used batteries.
“It will work with international best practices using the standard benchmarks accepted globally,” he said.
In other African countries, systems are in place.
Trojan Battery, the US-based lead battery maker that has installed its Solar AGM range throughout countries in sub-Saharan Africa, has partners with African battery makers in Namibia, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana, and recyclers who collect and recycle the batteries they supply in closed loop systems that ensure the batteries are collected and re-used.
The Center for Alternative Technologies in Kenya is one of them.
“We sell batteries via two channels – directly to end-users and through a network of resellers,” said Nawir Ibrahim, CEO at CAT. “For all our end users who need replacements, we offer a credit for their old batteries when they purchase a new set. The credit is based on the size of the battery and the distance it has to be transported to our warehouse in Nairobi.
“Here, we keep all the returned used batteries until we have about 1,000 kilogrammes. We then ask a recycling company to come and collect them.
“We collect most, if not all, of the batteries we sell to end users. It’s no secret that used batteries have a cash value. No one would send a dead battery to the dump.”
In April, a workshop held by the Clean Technology Hub came up with a list of recommendations on dealing with ULABs in Nigeria, including working more closely with the government and companies in the sector towards greater regulation in the recycling sector.