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Eliminating Informal Recycling of Used Lead–Acid Batteries

The Lead Battery industry should be a model for a sustainable circular economy with over 95% of used lead–acid batteries (ULABs) being recycled, i.e., more than any other commodity! Nevertheless, irrespective of the efforts made by lead smelters in the OECD and many emerging economies to raise the standards of performance for Occupational Health, Worker Safety and Environmental Management, the improper ULAB recycling operations of informal smelters in certain regions and nations remains a persistent problem for the Industry. Informal recycling has adverse impacts not only for the environment and the workers, but also on populations living in the proximity of such operations, local and national governments and responsible lead smelters. Furthermore, informal and polluting recycling operations undermine the image of the whole industry and the perception that international and intergovernmental bodies have of the ‘lead–acid battery life-cycle’.

Regrettably, eliminating informal ULAB recycling operations from countries where they are prevalent has proven difficult and the disregard for sound environmental management means that informal recyclers will often outbid licensed smelters for supplies of ULABs.

The presentation will outline several integrated strategies, including technical solutions, administrative procedures and political interventions that can be applied either to compete with informal operations or to eliminate them.

Brian Wilson


Brian Wilson is an independent consultant who works for several Intergovernmental Organisations, NGOs and the International Lead Association.

Most recently he has been working with UNEP and the Basel Convention Secretariat promoting sustainable sound ULAB recycling procedures in Asia, Africa and Central America.