Worried about the poor state in handling used lead-acid batteries (ULABs) in the country, Stakeholders in the renewable energy sector have raised the alarm that only about 13 per cent of the over 110,000 used lead-acid batteries that find their ways into Nigeria yearly are recycled.
They also warned that poor and unsound management of ULAB is highly toxic to humans and can damage the brain and kidneys, affect hearing and create significant learning disabilities in children.
As the batteries may contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, silver, nickel or lithium than can contaminate the environment if not recycled or disposed of properly.They raised the concerns at a workshop in Abuja on how to properly manage ULABs which are used for energy storage in the country, some of these stakeholders argued that even when the batteries are recycled; they are mostly done at informal shelters located within residential areas across the country
Daily Champion also gathered that the workshop was aimed at addressing the growing issue of poor management of used lead-acid batteries which has harmful effects on the environment and public health.The stakeholders made up of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Clean Technology Hub, a pioneering hybrid hub for the research, development, demonstration and incubation of clean energy technologies in Africa and Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN) attended the workshop organised in Abuja for renewable energy operators in Nigeria.
According to a study Heinrich Boll Stiftung in 2016 approximately 106,000tons of used lead acid batteries are generated annually in Nigeria, while approximately 96,000tons are collected and sold annually and most used lead acid batteries are bought by “informal” collectors and traders of new batteries and delivered mainly to Onitsha, South East Nigeria and Lagos State, other smaller collection states includes Kano and Ibadan.
The study showed that even though Nigeria has a fairly basic but organized collection, transportation and storage system for used lead acid batteries around the country, there is no evidence of health, environmental or safety precautions in handling this hazardous waste by primary recyclers. The findings concluded that there is need for more stakeholder engagement on ULAD to determine the status of secondary smelting and recycling in Nigeria and possible export activities of lead from Nigeria.
“Approximately 110,000 tonnes of ULABs are generated in Nigeria annually from the automotive and renewable energy sectors with only 13 per cent of this amount recycled, mostly in informal shelters located in residential areas which leads to high cases of lead pollution,” said a communique from the workshop.
The communique from the workshop quoted Ifeoma Malo, the Chief Executive Officer of Clean Technology Hub to have said that the imminent explosion of mini grid electricity systems in Nigeria could result to an increase in the use of ULABs, thus, the urgency for a campaign for proper management of them.
Malo said: “There is a mini-grid revolution about to take off in Nigeria, such as the World Bank and the Rural Electrification Agency $350m project as well as other investments into the sector. This means that there will be more batteries. As such, it is imperative for the sector to create a battery management framework that will feed into government policy on used battery disposal, create investment opportunities and tackle a growing problem before it gets severe.”
Also, Mr. Terseer Ugboh of the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of Nigeria (REDIN), which is a clean energy-focused NGO explained that the issue of ULAB management has been their focus for the past four years with several workshops and trainings on how to decide the best possible ways for its management in Nigeria.
Ugboh, stated that though the current focus was on secondary batteries which are rechargeable like lead-acid batteries, REDIN would want to to extend the focus to primary batteries such as alkaline batteries, mercury batteries and zinc-carbon batteries.
He said: “In the course of our work, we have decided to champion an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program in Nigeria to set the template for how renewable energy companies and other companies across the country including importers of batteries and recyclers should manage used batteries. It will work with international best practices using the standard benchmarks accepted globally.”
Further, the communique quoted an expert on used-battery management, Dr. Gilbert Adie, to have stated that proper management of ULABs could create investment opportunities with the price of lead globally going for as high as $2,200 per ton.
Adie, suggested a benchmark assessment tool for ULAB management with focus on areas such as assessing best practices for the collection of ULABs and ensuring battery recycling plants are located only in industrial areas.According to the communique, at the moment, there was only one recognised battery recycling facility in Nigeria which is operated by Ibeto Group and based in Nnewi, Anambra State.
It added that there is no specific policy for battery recycling in Nigeria at the moment, adding that guidelines such as the National Environmental Base Metals, Iron and Steel Manufacturing and Recycling Regulation (2011), National Environmental Vehicle and Miscellaneous Assembly Regulations (2012) are however applicable to ULAB management.
It was reportedly attended by renewable energy companies, recycling companies, sustainable development-focused non-governmental organizations and policymakers.It could be recalled that last year a similar training workshop on environmentally sound management of used lead acid batteries and the application of the benchmarking assessment tool in the context of implementing the BASEL convention was organised by Heinrich Boll Stiftung Nigeria in Lagos.
Speaking on ULAB Recycling: Risks, Opportunities and Improvement Options; The use of the Benchmarking Assessment Tool for environmentally sound management of used lead-acid batteries (ULAB), Andreas Manhart, Senior Researcher Sustainable Products & Material Flows Coordinator of Lead Africa Project, Oko Institute Germany noted that Nigeria should adopt control measures to adequately address releases, emissions and exposures from waste lead-acid batteries, including recycling, e.g. through appropriate standards and criteria”
According to him the United Nations Environment Assembly is “deeply concerned about the health and environmental impacts from waste lead-acid battery recycling, in particular through activities in the informal sector in developing countries, and the lack of adequate infrastructure needed to recycle the rapidly growing number of waste lead-acid batteries in an environmentally sound manner.
He also stressed that Standards need to be raised for all ULAB recyclers in Nigeria to have a level playing field.‘’For this, a mapping of all ULAB recyclers/smelters is urgently needed.There are indications that there are over 20 sub-standard smelters operating in Nigeria. Sub-standard smelters should be forced to improve or closed down by the authorities.’
He added that for auditing, the Benchmarking Assessment Tool is a valuable instrument and should be tapped into by regulators for minimum plant assessment. In the short term, the Basel Technical Guidelines for the Environmentally Sound Management of Waste Lead-acid Batteries can be used as legal backing for a concerted improvement process.
However, Findings from a field research conducted by Recycling and Economic Initiative Development of Nigeria (REDDIN) indicates that annually, a projected 110,300 tons of used lead acid batteries are generated in Nigeria, while estimated 96,000 tons are collected and sold annually. With each ton sold at N340,000 which translates to N32.6 billion annually.The worry is that while this is a emergent business, Nigeria is yet to build up a distinctive regulatory code for the activities of operators despite the toxic nature of waste generated.
According to the managing director/CEO of REDIN Recycling Industries, Terseer Ugbor, who conducted a research on ULAB, noted that “Used lead acid batteries are considered the second most toxic waste after nuclear waste. It is not something that countries play with at all and it is not something that Nigeria should play with,”
He said, “If we are going to bungle other waste streams like plastic bottles and other packaging wastes, lead acids should not be mismanaged because of the harmful effects.”
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