When people think industry, they think massive systems, uncontrolled pollution, toxic waste and energy intensive processes. Even recycling, which is proactively saving the planet, the perception is of large, industrial, polluting and energy intensive operations that are located away from the population. The reality is, when you come to lead acid battery recycling, current smelting techniques do require massive amounts of energy, and do result in large scale pollution and contamination if not controlled adequately. Unfortunately formal recycling in less developed regions often pays little regard to environmental controls as they simply cannot afford the additional costs associated with proper provision. As a result, highly polluting smelters are let loose on the environment, spewing toxic SOx and NOx as well as vast amounts of CO2 – a deadly cocktail.
In addition, smelting operations require incredible amounts of input in order to achieve sufficient efficiency to make profit. A thriving informal sector that lead to difficulties to collection and an inability to scale to compete with illegal operations means smelting plants simply won’t work in smaller towns and cities. For example, the Indian government legislates that battery manufacturers are required to collect 90% of all their batteries for recycling. They are currently stuck at 40%. Smelting does not work.
So you are left with a highly polluting formal sector that cannot secure supply to afford to pay for environmental controls, and a large scale informal sector polluting and contaminating haphazardly that cannot be reached using current processes.