6th International Secondary Lead Conference — the second day
Reportage: Brian Wilson
The first session of the second day of the Secondary Lead Conference was focused on production. The first speaker, Masssimo Sbrosi, from Engitec Technologies, presented to the delegates the range of processes that Engitec offer to the secondary lead industry, including their CX process that now includes a top of the range battery breaker capable of consuming up to 40 tonnes per hour and a tilting rotary furnace.
For many years, since the introduction of ABS battery cases, used mainly for e-bike and security batteries, has caused separation issues with polypropylene, but Sbrosi informed delegates that they can now offer all their breakers with the ability to separate polypropylene and ABS plastics.
Jarosite residues produced during zinc hydrometallurgy are considered a hazardous waste because they contain heavy metals such as Zn and Pb. However, Jarosite residues can also contain significant amounts of silver and copper. Estimates as to the value of the metals dumped annually are put at a staggering $2 billion to $3 billion.
Economic recovery of these metals in an environmentally sound process was now possible according to Gustav Hanke, a project manager from the University of Leoben. According to Hanke, it is entirely possible, following flotation, palletization and calicination of the Jarosite, to separate fractions containing zinc oxide, as an off gas stream; the lead, copper and silver in the metal bath and the iron is then referred to the slag.
Recovering the individual metals from the mix in the bath can then be performed in the traditional way.
The management of ventilation and filtration systems is paramount to maintaining a clean working environment, but up to now had not featured in any of the ISLC conferences.
So, the presentation by John Fields, the vice president of Nederman MikroPul, was a most welcome addition to the program. Indeed, one of the first points Fields made was that the design of the filtration systems is critical and has to take into account fact that lead dust has characteristics that make it more difficult to capture and that regular monitoring and effective maintenance is essential for the filtration system to function properly.
Fields also emphasized how important it is to integrate the filtration systems into the plant design and layout and not regard the baghouse as a box you add on after the furnaces are installed.
To underline the importance of monitoring filtration performance, Fields introduced the delegates to the latest digital monitoring technology available with all baghouses to provide up to the minute performance data.
Making a first appearance at the ISLC was Desiree Montelcillo-Narvaez, the head of the UNEP Global Initiative on lead Risk Reduction.
Montelcillo-Narvaez informed delegates that her mandate given to UNEP by the UN Environment Program was to eliminate the use of lead in paint and pigments and to promote and develop the environmentally sound and sustainable recycling of ULAB with a focus on developing countries and those in economic transition.
Montelcillo-Narvaez said the UNEP program was not being implemented in isolation and was working with the ILA, Pure Earth, academia, WHO, the Global Battery Alliance.
Montelcillo-Narvaez said that in collaboration with the Basel Convention Secretariat, two pilot programs were being implemented with one in central and South America in Ecuador and Honduras and the second in Asia, in Bangladesh.
Montelcillo-Narvaez told delegates that the ISLC had given her the opportunity to meet some of the project partners she will be working with in Honduras, and Bangladesh.
The host country, Indonesia also has an active lead risk reduction program with the government supporting the UNEP initiative and working with Pure Earth to remediate contaminated sites and the ILA and the Basel Secretariat to update guidelines for the environmentally sound management of ULAB.
Budi Susilorini, the Pure Earth Country Coordinator for Indonesia, outlined the remediation projects completed in Indonesia, but also emphasized that Pure Earth are also active across Asia, in particular, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, India and more recently, Bangladesh, in Kathgora.
While we all aware of the positive impact that the abolition of leaded gasoline has had on the population’s lead in blood levels, recent studies by Pure Earth and partners had revealed a disturbing increase in lead in blood levels among the general population in certain Asian countries and this trend may be attributed to informal ULAB recycling.
George Gatlin, the CEO of INVEMA in Honduras, addressed the committee to thank them for such a comprehensive program about the environmentally sound recycling of ULAB. Gatlin admitted that at the time he knew nothing about recycling ULAB, but now at the sixth ISLC he made a welcome return, not as a delegate, but as a speaker.
Starting from a brownfield site over the past four years Gatlin, with assistance from a partner in Ecuador, Fundametz and the ILA, has designed and built a ULAB recycling plant that conforms to national legislation and international norms for emissions and discharges. The Honduras government has been so impressed that they have banned the export of ULAB to ensure that all the ULAB are recycled domestically.
One huge problem for the lead battery as a whole is the presence of the informal recycling sector, where illegally batteries are scrapped for their
Elimination of the informal sector is therefore vital if responsible recyclers are to free themselves from the shadow of the environmental blight generated by the backyard operations.
My presentation, detailing a series of measures and actions that can and should be taken by the industry and governments that will either eliminate the informal sector or bring them into the formal licensed and responsible sector was therefore well received by the delegates, and especially the lead industry, NGOs and UNEP.
Managing the health, safety and environmental impacts of ULAB recycling is not the only lead risk management essential to the sustainability of an operating plant, management of the financial risk, especially in a price fluctuating market is critical.
At the previous ISLC in Kuala Lumpur Edric Koh, the head of corporate sales for the LME Asian office, conducted a lead hedging workshop, but of course hedging, albeit of importance, is not the only financial instrument that is available to provide improved security.
Indeed, longer term planning and the financial security associated with such forecasting might be better served by the futures market because it enables a greater degree of price flexibility that is beneficial to the recycler and also the customer who may want to fix the lead price when an order is placed.
Wirtz Manufacturing has been a supporter and contributor to the ISLC since the first conference in Macau. This year Robert Wirtz, the company’s director of engineering, introduced the company’s new range of ULAB recycling equipment, that includes a redesigned breaker that is capable of handling the heavy duty and solar energy storage batteries.
One of other benefits of the new design is the ease of maintenance and the optimization of the hammers in the breaker, this, together with the ability of the hydro-gravitational separator to distinguish between ABS and polypropylene plastics brings the breaker right up to date with the recycling requirements.
However, the most interesting new production was the Fully Assembled Skid Mounted System for breaking ULAB that is delivered on site in a standard shipping container and as soon as it is offloaded, connected to water and power, it is ready to break ULAB. Normally, Wirtz said, from the time the trailer arrives on site to the moment the first ULAB is broken is 24 hours.
Representing those companies in the Middle East involved in the recycling of ULAB, was Salam Al Sharif, from Sharif Metals who spoke about the importance of the circular economy and lead batteries’ closed loop approach which differentiated itself from other products.
The final session of the ISLC was a participative occupational exposure and health workshop held by Steve Binks and myself on behalf of the ILA. This workshop session shared with the delegates the measures and practices adopted and implemented by ILA members to reduce occupational exposure to the ILA’s target for lead workers of 25 µg/dl.
Opening the session, Binks shared case studies that demonstrated a measured and monitored step-by-step approach to reducing lead exposure in the workplace.
After that we outlined the various recycling plant design requirements necessary to minimize occupational exposure. During this session, interventions were invited from the delegates so that they could also share their experiences with the delegates.
Armed with the know-how for best and effective control of occupational exposure the delegates were then taken through an elevated lead in blood case study, by myself that involved investigating the underlying reasons for high exposure among shift workers. To the credit of the delegates, they collectively identified the problem and came up with a number of solutions to resolve the issue.
The final participative session of the workshop led by Binks involved an examination of the good and poor personal behaviours associated with hygiene, the use and application of PPE and lead exposure.
Without exception, feedback showed that every delegate left the workshop with at least one positive objective that would be implemented in their own place of work.