21 February, 2024 News

ProBaMet, a new battery recycling project in Nigeria, launched by ARE & Partners


Improving battery recycling in Nigeria, raising labour and environmental standards, and establishing sustainable trade flows for raw materials – these are the declared aims of the new project Partnership for Responsible Battery and Metal Recycling (ProBaMet) by Oeko-Institut, Alliance for Rural Electrification, SRADev Nigeria und WV Metalle.

In this new project, partners from Nigerian civil society, the metal processing industry and the solar industry are working together with the Oeko-Institut to develop a cooperative approach to the responsible recycling of lead-acid batteries. To this end, the project is liaising closely with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Environment and the environmental enforcement agency NESREA.

In view of the serious health and environmental risks posed by unsound recycling practices, the project supports industrial companies and regulatory authorities in Nigeria in introducing environmental, health and safety standards. The project is funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and accompanied by the Initiative for Global Solidarity (IGS) and the Global Programme Go Circular.

Modernising Nigeria’s recycling industry

Nigeria is home to one of the largest lead-acid battery recycling industries in Sub-Saharan Africa. At least ten facilities recycle batteries on an industrial scale, recovering raw materials such as lead, tin and antimony. These are mostly redeployed in battery production – either in Nigeria or abroad.

The joint project aims to share experiences for the modernisation of the recycling sector in Nigeria. The partners are using a three-pronged approach: the Oeko-Institut and the industrial partners are providing knowledge on environmental protection and occupational safety for recycling plants and training plant managers to improve environmental performance and plant safety. In addition, the partners are developing concepts for how Nigerian regulatory authorities might introduce and monitor binding standards for environmental protection and occupational health and safety and implement them together with local companies. Last but not least, cooperation with other sectors is to be initiated, for example with the Nigerian solar industry, which requires environmentally sound solutions for used batteries. The German and international metals industry is as well highly interested in responsible supply chains for secondary raw materials.

Lead-acid battery recycling – risks and opportunities for the circular economy

Lead-acid batteries are used in cars, off-grid solar applications and backup power systems. Environmentally sound and safe recycling is possible and can effectively recover a large proportion of all contained raw materials. However, in many regions of the world, recycling takes place in substandard, highly dangerous and unsafe conditions, exposing workers and neighbouring communities to toxic lead dust.

This lead exposure can have serious health effects, including irreversible nerve and brain damage particularly in children. According to UNICEF, up to 800 million children, especially in low- and middle-income countries, have elevated blood lead levels. In addition to the dramatic impact on the lives of those affected, there is also long-term economic damage, which is estimated at four percent of the gross domestic product in Sub-Saharan Africa.