As well as the problems associated with unreliable infrastructure, large centralised smelting plants are simply unable to collect batteries. Facilities with capacity up to 70,000 tons per year run at just over half capacity, 40,000 tons per year. In India, a Deposit-Refund System is in place and retailers, manufacturers and importers are required to be part of the buy-back system. However, in reality, the intended policy framework fails. Lack of education with regards the dangers of lead and the ability to make money from the used batteries easily, breed a multi layered and insidious informal recycling sector that simple legislation fails to crack. Up to $1.5bn dollars worth of lead is recycled informally or wasted – and the reason why is simple.
Formal recyclers incur costs for recycling every battery in order to adhere to environmental standards and towards taxes, yet informal recyclers save on such costs, hence they can pay a higher price to procure the used batteries. The informal sector thrives on its ability to sacrifice on health and safety in exchange for higher supply costs. Complex networks survive off this industry. From collection to recycling, every stakeholder involved earns their portion for the role they play in the informal sector yet crucially, the final return is higher than if supplying the used lead acid batteries to a formal recycler. Supply of used batteries is therefore diverted away from formal channels – contamination ensues and lead poisoning systemic. Whilst financial incentive exists, education alone will not be enough to stop informal recycling. That is where Citrecycle plays its part and our mission takes hold.