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.