A recent training workshop themed Evironmentally Sound Management of Used Lead Acid batteries and organized by the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of Nigeria(REDIN) in collaboration with Clean Technology Hub and REAN(Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria) held on 20, October 2017 in Lagos shed some light on the common Lead Acid Batteries management are a concern to health and the environment in Nigeria.

Read about what Lead Acid Batteries are, their types and uses here


Health & Environmental Concerns

A typical lead acid battery contains 8-9kg of lead(plates) and 5kg of sulphuric acid, and if handled improperly, poses hazard to human health and the environment. ULABs are safe but can become hazardous when touching damaged cells, trying to smelt lead plats on an open fire and when handling the acids. some lead compounds are extremely toxic to human health, long-term exposure to even tiny amounts of these compounds can cause deplorable health effects such as learning irregularities and behavourial problems in children, anaemia, nerve disorders, kidney damage, muscle and joint pain, memory loss, seizures, birth defects, high blood pressure and death.
Lead can enter the body by inhalation of lead dust or ingestion when touching the mouth with lead-contaminated hands. The sulphuric acid  in Lead batteries is extremely corrosive and can cause severe body injury upon contact.Also the acid leakage can contaminate the soil and water. LABs also present a fire and explosion hazard.

Lead Acid Battery End-of-Life

When a Lead acid battery can no longer to recharge and retain the charge applied, its lifetime reaches its end and becomes "Used" as it is no longer useful to the application for which it was designed (for example to serve as an inverter power backup). This is mainly causd by Sulphation. the process of Sulphation begins when lead sulphate precipitates over the battery plates(forming whitish particles on the battery tips) eventually reaching a point where the ions can no longer migrate from or to plates and the reactions which produce the electric energy ceases.

Regulation of Used Lead Acid Battery (ULAB)

Nigeria is a signatory to the Basel Convention which aims to control Used Lead Acid batteries as hazardous waste and requires them to be handled accordingly in order to prevent damage to human health and the environment through:
  • the reduction of trans-boundary movements to a minimum consisted with environmentally sound management
  • treatment and disposal to their source of generation
  • minimization of their quantity and harmful effect

How Used Lead Acid Batteries (ULABs) are Managed

ULABs are mainly managed through recycling and this is generally a worldwide trend. The  recycling of ULABs is driven by the ecoenomic value  asociated with the Lead content in them. In Nigeria, approximately 110,300 tons of used lead acid batties are generated annually, while approximately 96,000 tons are collected and sold annually.
Nigeria has a fairly basic but organized collection, transportation and storage system for used lead acid batteries around the country. Most used lead acid batteries are bought by informal collectors and traders of new batteries and delivered mainly to Onitsha, South East Nigeria, Kano, Ogun, Ibadan and Lagos states
The most common and efficient method for the collection of used lead acid batteries is through the battery retailer where a discount is given against the purchase price of a new battery provided the customer returns the new battery. In Nigeria, informal collection is through rag-pickes who scavenge for discarded materials that be reused or recycled.

UCLAB Recycling Value chain

Below is a summary of the role of the different types of persons and companies involved in the recycling of use lead batteries in Nigeria .
 Used Battery Generators(UBGS)- are persons or organizations that produce reasonable quantities of used batteries such from automotives,alternatie energy, private companies and government organizations. The UGBs store their ULABs on their premises until they are collected by Area Waste Collectors, scrap metal scavengers, etc.
Used Battery Traders(UBTs)-are generally small, one-man operators. The traders, who are often unlicensed collect the used batteries and then sell them to Used Battery Collectors. Despite used batteries being a hazardous waste, the scrap battery dealers often transport them not taking into account any potential hazard that may arise from handling these batteries.
Used Battery Collectors(UBCs) - these persons deal in the collection of used lead batteries and hence are regarded as middleman and financiers for their collection, transportation and storage. The UBCs sell these batteries to lead smelting companies mainly in Nigeria and may sometimes export. Majority of thr UBCs are failing  to transport and store the batteries in any specialized method.
Transport Providers(TPs) -are the transporters of the ULABs, to the reprocessing plants. These persons most often do not take safety measures during transportation of these batteries.
Battery Processing Plants(BPPs) -are the companies that recycle the ULAB and sell the recycled lead or produce new lead batteries in Nigeria. These plants are xposed to acid leaks when unloading and unpackin the palletized ULABs and also have to deal with significant plastic wrap and strapping wastes.

The Producer Responsibility

The Extended Producer Responsibility(EPR) program will provide effective consumer awareness, expansion of waste collection infrastructure to ensure the following:
  • minimal wastre arising from these products by encouraging battery users return old batteries at the point of purchasing a new one
  • treatment of waste products to meet recovery and recycling targets
  • design of products to reduce material use and enhance reusability and recyclability
  • documentation and data collection in the sector
  • sound environmental management of ULABs in Nigeria

The ULAB Recycling Process

ULABs Receiving Bay- the  bay is the area designed to recieve ULABs collected through the return system or from various industries/collectors within the country.
ULABs Processing Component -in this component the battery is broken and disintegrated into bits and pieces with a battery breaker and separated into different settling tanks based on the substance types(Polypropylene and Polyethylene) or lead for recycling or reprocessing.
Lead Smelting Component - this component involves the melting of lead scraps in furnaces under extreme heat to separate metallic lead from other substances. Hard or antimonial lead is produced as a result of this process and is packaged.
Lead Refining Component- the hard lead is further refined to remove other substances such as Copper and Tin to produce Soft lead.
Blending Component -highly specialized engineering equipments are used to produce lead alloys required in the manufacturing of various types of lead batteries
ULABs recycling process 
Used Battery Recycling Process
Institute of Applied Ecology
Heinrich Boll Stiftung Nigeria
Image credits gravitaexim.com
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