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CEC spotlights US/Mexico used battery trade

Mexico – Between 30% and 60% of all spent lead-acid batteries (SLABs) recycled in Mexico come from the USA, a new report from the North American Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has revealed.

Citing 2011 figures from the US Census Bureau, CEC says the USA exported some 342 187 tonnes of SLABs to Mexico while importing 191 341 kg. In terms of the global volume of SLABs exported by the USA, Mexico is the leading destination with a 68% share, according to the CEC. And between 2004 and 2011, US exports of SLABs to Mexico increased by 449-525%.

US and Mexican industry sources believe that many of Mexico’s 25 authorised secondary smelters – with a permitted capacity to recycle around 1 337 200 tonnes of SLABs per year – are currently operating at no more than 50% of these permitted levels.

‘Given that lead-acid batteries contain about 60% lead alloy by weight, this means Mexico may be producing some 401 151 tonnes of lead annually,’ the report contends. In Mexico, 15 facilities have an annual capacity of less than 30 000 tonnes, whereas in the USA and Canada only one facility has an equal or smaller capacity, notes the CEC.

Key findings

‘Although certain new smelters in Mexico have features and management practices common to high-performing facilities, few smelters appear to have the types of controls, processes and technologies necessary to receive a permit in the United States or Canada today,’ the report underlines. Unlike Canada and Mexico, the USA does not require a manifest to accompany international shipments of SLABs, the report points out.

Also, the USA does not require exporters of SLABs to obtain a certificate of recovery from the recycling facility. The USA has ‘the most stringent overall framework’, while in Mexico – where ‘significant gaps’ exist in the regulatory framework – certain emission controls and requirements are the least stringent and ‘need to be augmented’ quickly, it is argued.

‘In pursuit of continent-wide trade and investment as enabled by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), comparative advantage should not be sought on the basis of lower environmental standards or lax enforcement,’ urges Evan Lloyd, former CEC executive director.

For more information, visit: www.cec.org

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