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The Citrecycle System

Informal Conundrum

Across the developing world, recycling in the informal sector has become an almost accepted way to make a living. Whilst the state is aware, the repercussions of shutting it down are unthinkable in terms of having to deal with waste themselves and the vast number of people that would end up without a livelihood. Informal recycling is a way to survive, as much as it is a crucial part of urban habitat.

Instead, shift has focused on empowering the individuals who are already established. Rather than shut down the informal sector, make it better. Numerous examples exist of instances where informal markets have become formalized and welcomed into society. By galvanizing local communities and pooling together like a consortium, informal workers are able to leverage new found strength and therefore achieve far better working conditions, security and safety. Lead acid battery recycling is no different.

With lead, there is a thriving informal sector, accounting for up to 50% of the recycling in India for example, yet the nature of the substance being recycled is incredibly hazardous to the communities and the environment. Whilst the income generated by the families in the informal sector is vital to their daily survival, this sector has been found to be responsible for virtually all of the pollution arising from the recycling of used lead acid batteries in most developing countries. The ability to formalise this particular sector in the same way others have been, such as e-waste, tanning and plastic recycling, is paramount. What is needed is local scale, low cost and easy to use solutions that current actors can adopt instead of current harmful smelting in garden operations. Inclusive market based incentives rather than hard legislation are the best way forward in order to harness this industrious community and eliminate lead poisoning.

Portrait de 2 scientifiques du Groupe Air Liquide - Rapport Annuel 2015
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Citrecycle Hub and Spoke

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Facilitated by the technology, Citrecycle has cleverly designed a system that directly addresses the needs of the informal sector. The result is the Citrecycle Hub and Spoke System. It is very low cost, simple to use, highly profitable, requires little infrastructure and can scale right down to suit any capacity necessary.

The use of a hub and spoke style model allows us to achieve the small scales necessary to penetrate the informal sector in the smaller towns and cities, but also to absorb enough used lead acid batteries to achieve economies of scale. A simple ten hub to one spoke system, means that each independent hub only needs 100 used lead acid batteries a day to operate, yet combined, 1000 batteries across a region are being recycled; 2 tons a hub, 20 tons a day, 7200 tons a year. That equates to the same capacity as a small smelting plant, but is distributed among the informal areas.

We have split the process into two parts; a low cost, low skill and low controlled part, and a higher cost, more controlled and higher skilled part. This means the system is easy to operate allowing local people to use, whilst ensuring a high quality lead output through control and the final stage.

Both the hubs and spokes use simple components and are cheap to manufacture, therefore, rather than building onsite, we can manufacture offsite and install. The agility and the ability to plug and play, completely rethinks the idea of industry and recycling. We are introducing mass manufacturing to industrial scale recycling.

Within the Market

Providing the user with a lucrative system that suits their needs is important, yet the ability to fit seamlessly into the current informal recycling system is vital. An inability to address the collection problem of used lead acid batteries would render the system futile in the similar way to smelting plants. We have a green, clean technology that facilitates a hub and spoke style system, which in turn allows a distributed recycling model that reaches out to the localized informal settings, yet it is the final barrier, the collection, that is another essential component of the Citrecycle offering. Citrecycle works with the people, to make everyone happier, healthier and wealthier