ILA Blog

Improving battery recycling in Ethiopia

As the economy of the land-locked east African country continues to thrive, the International Lead Association’s (ILA) Brian Wilson is advising companies and government officials on best practice recycling of used lead batteries.  

Ethiopia is enjoying an economic renaissance, part of the peace dividend following the end of fighting between the East African state and its neighbour Eritrea. 

Forecasters predict continuing strong growth, and the country is forging ahead with green energy initiatives including the installation of more than 400,000 solar home systems (SHS). 

Meanwhile economic prosperity means more vehicles and a growing telecommunications network and that has brought with it an increase in the use of lead batteries. 

With the bulk of the SHS installed with lead batteries as the preferred energy storage system, the authorities realised the need for effective collection and recycling of the used batteries.

A German international development agency, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit , better known as GIZ, working with the Ethiopian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change Commission (EFCCC), invited me as ILA’s adviser to provide the necessary technical input required to implement sustainable environmentally sound lead battery recycling in Ethiopia. 

Under the Energising Development (EnDev) Ethiopia programme, GIZ in cooperation with the EFCCC and the European environmental research group, the Oeko-Institut, arranged for two workshops. The first was a high-level session for senior government officials, policy makers and stakeholders with an overview of the current situation in Ethiopia with regard to lead battery sales and lead battery generation presented by Dr Tadesse Amera. I delivered a presentation on responsible lead battery recycling and we then held a discussion about a proposed ‘Road Map’ commissioned by Professor Fekadu Beyene, the EFCCC Commissioner and presented to the delegates by Andreas Manhart from the Oeko-Institut.

The government of Ethiopia is keen to adopt the concept of a circular economy and become self-sufficient in lead battery production. Consequently, and in view of the fact that Ethiopia has at least one integrated lead battery manufacturing and used lead battery recycling company, Awash Automotive Batteries, the GIZ and the Oeko-Institut asked me, at a second workshop for regulations, inspectors and industry, to explain in detail how to achieve sustainable lead battery recycling with due regard to standards for occupational health, safety and the environment. In addition, and because the government inspectorate were not familiar with the requirements for lead battery manufacturing and used lead battery recycling, I was asked to introduce the use and application of the ILA’s Benchmarking Assessment Tool (BAT) for plant inspections.

Sixteen delegates attended the two-day workshop with the first morning devoted to explaining how lead batteries can be manufactured and used batteries recycled in an environmentally sound manner, such that the health, safety and environmental risks are minimised during the manufacturing and recycling processes. 

I was able to emphasise to the workshop participants that, whilst it is important to have guidelines for the recovery of used lead batteries, without independent inspection, monitoring, evaluation and verification by the government Inspectorate, there is no guarantee of conformance with good practice or compliance with prevailing legislation. 

It should be noted that the BAT is not a replacement for a formal quantitative sampling survey, but it does provide a comprehensive and easy to use evaluation process that is consistent with the ILA’s guidance notes, the Basel Convention Technical Guidelines, and Ethiopian national and regional legislation, including safety, hygiene and sustainability requirements.

The afternoon session of day one of the workshop consisted of the delegates undertaking a BAT-simulated inspection exercise of a used lead battery recycling plant using a video of an unidentified sub-standard operation. 

The second day of the workshop was assigned to a field trip - thanks to the management team at Awash Auto Batteries - so that the delegates could test their BAT skills at a real lead battery manufacturing site and used lead battery recycling operation. 

Safe recycling: delegates at the Awash Auto Batteries Plant in Ethiopia

During the BAT inspection the delegates identified the main health safety and environmental issues and presented improvement plans that not only met approval from me, but also the Awash management.

Brian Wilson. November 2019

 

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