July 30, 2020: A global alliance of lead and battery associations has condemned all informal lead battery recycling in response to a report launched by Unicef on July 30 that says a third of the world’s children are lead poisoning victims.
The report estimates that the actual number of children affected is 800 million.
The alliance, comprising the ILA, EUROBAT, BCI and the Association of Battery Recyclers, has issued a statement urging governments to do more to crack down on illegal recycling and provide incentives to ensure recycling of used batteries is only done by high performing recyclers.
“It is a tragedy when a person or community is damaged or harmed by improper recycling of used batteries and the findings of the report warrant careful scrutiny,” the statement said.
The report, The Toxic Truth: Children’s exposure to lead pollution undermines a generation of potential, was produced by the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation, a research body set up by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2007. It was launched by the children’s charity UNICEF and the environmental group Pure Earth, and identifies the children of low and middle-income countries as the most likely to suffer from lead poisoning.
After carrying out case studies in five countries — Bangladesh, Georgia, Ghana, Indonesia and Mexico — the report concludes that the leading contributor to the poisoning is the ‘informal and substandard recycling of lead-acid batteries’.
“Through our global material stewardship programme, the trade association member companies are committed to ensuring that inappropriately recycled lead does not enter our supply chains,” said the alliance.
“We are also providing expert consultancy in many affected countries to improve recycling standards and will continue to work with NGOs like Pure Earth in their efforts to create sustainable solutions globally.
“However, we cannot do this alone. Success requires strong commitment from governments and regulatory bodies in the countries affected for real and long-lasting improvements to take place. For many people in low and middle-income countries, informal and unregulated recycling is a subsistence issue, and the materials they are handling have a high economic value.
“Governments and regulators must incentivize high-performing, regulated recyclers and crack down on the informal sector and its practices.”
Other sources of lead exposure identified in the report are still pipes, paint, gasoline, solder, cosmetics and toys as well as mining and battery recycling.
“The good news is that lead can be recycled safely without exposing workers, their children and surrounding neighbourhoods,” said Richard Fuller, president of Pure Earth.
“People can be educated about the dangers of lead and empowered to protect themselves and their children. The return on the investment is enormous: improved health, increased productivity, higher IQs, less violence and brighter futures for millions of children across the planet.”