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Council on Energy, Environment and Water Integrated | International | Independent
Issue Brief

Lead Acid Battery Recycling in India

Challenges and Next Steps

Hem H. Dholakia, Abhishek Jain
April 2015 | Technology, Finance & Trade

Suggested Citation: Dholakia, Hem H. and Abhishek Jain. 2015. Lead Acid Battery Recycling in India: Challenges and Next Steps. New Delhi: Council on Energy, Environment and Water.

Overview

This issue brief highlights the challenges associated with recycling lead acid batteries in India. It uses existing literature and preliminary primary research through stakeholder interviews to identify the key issues associated with Used Lead Acid Batteries (ULABs) recycling. Further, it recommends the next steps to improve battery recycling through policy action based on sound research.

Key Highlights

  • During 2015, the lead acid battery market in India was growing at a rate of 16.5 per cent.
  • The number of vehicles in India increased from 55 million in 2001 to 159.5 million in 2012, consequently increasing the demand for lead acid batteries.
  • Under the Batteries Management and Handling Rules (2001) ULABs procured by retailers are to be sold only to registered (formal) recyclers, who are required to use environmentally friendly processes to recycle the lead.
  • Off-grid renewable energy storage is primarily used for solar power-based home systems in rural areas, lighting and charging solutions or roof-top solar applications in urban areas.
  • Formal recycles incur additional costs for recycling every battery, and a significant share of ULABs gets diverted towards informal recycling.
  • Poor collection frequencies also lead to the diversion of batteries to informal smelters.
  • Formal smelters face underutilisation of plant capacity due to lack of feedstock, and as a result support the informal sector by procuring re-melted lead and smelting it further.

Value chain recycling; N: New Battery, O: Old battery, R: Re-cycled Lead

Key Recommendations

  • Create a detailed analysis of issues pertaining recycling of lead acid batteries as this would be required to develop more targeted policies. Implementing homogenous policy prescriptions will be ineffective due to geographical and economic diversities in the informal sectors.
  • In the short run, educational interventions for safer environmental practices within the informal system could go a long way to protect human health.
  • Create policies and awareness generation programs that are based on sound, unbiased, scientific research while filling data gaps, detailing the processes and associated exposures across the value chain, and understanding economic and non-economic incentives of involved stakeholders.

Greater diversion of ULABs towards informal recyclers results in less than required feed stock for formal smelters to sustain their operations, and underutilization of plant capacity.

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