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22 Jun 2022, 13:09
Edgar Meza

Clear rules needed for shipping used e-car batteries to Africa - researchers

Clean Energy Wire

Researchers and environmentalists from Germany and several African nations are calling for clear rules and improved controls to better regulate the export of used e-car batteries from Europe to Africa for second-life applications. “We must set clear rules for shipping used batteries to low- and middle-income countries,” said Phyllis Omido from Kenya’s Center for Justice Governance and Environmental Action. "The mistakes made with the export of old computers must not be repeated,” added Sampson Atiemo from the Centre for Sustainable Cycles in Ghana. While the shipment of old equipment to Africa two decades ago was expected to contribute to development, the environmental and social consequences of an uncontrolled e-waste trade were enormous, according to Germany’s Institute for Applied Ecology (Oeko-Institut).

Like IT equipment, lithium-ion batteries contain numerous hazardous substances that can become a problem at the end of the product life cycle. The groups’ recommended minimum standards include:

  • Generally, only high-quality batteries with at least 80 percent of original energy storage capacity may be considered for export and donations – proven by tests under real conditions.
  • If batteries are of equal quality to new batteries commonly used in the target countries, they should also have a price advantage.
  • Shipments should comply with international procedures for trading in used goods. For example, the full functionality of batteries must be proven before shipping.
  • All actors bringing batteries – new or used – to market in low- and middle-income countries should be obliged to collect corresponding quantities in the same country and bring them to sound management.

The organisations also call for environmentally sound battery recycling capacities in Africa. "The demand for batteries will multiply, but the local take-back logistics, reuse and recycling are not yet sorted out," said Leslie Adogame of Nigeria’s Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development. “But please stop even considering sending your waste batteries to Africa.”

In Germany, engineering association VDI has said better recycling and circularity concepts for battery materials hold "enormous" ecological and financial potential.

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