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RSR demands action on US lead battery export ‘epidemic’

United States – While US secondary lead smelter RSR Corporation says it ‘strongly supports’ the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to clarify federal regulations on the export and recycling of lead-containing cathode ray tubes (CRTs), it has written an open letter to the agency concerning the ‘long-festering threats’ posed by the ‘relentless export’ of spent lead-acid batteries to facilities in Mexico.

Owing to the sheer scale of the problem, RSR’s ceo and president Robert E. Finn says resolution of the spent lead-acid battery issue should ‘take precedence over all other forms of electronic waste’.

Citing a 2012 report by TransparentPlanet, Finn notes that roughly 299 300 tons of CRT glass is currently stockpiled throughout the country, ready to be recycled. He insists that there is ‘no evidence’ to suggest that these materials are causing any harm.

‘At the same time, we know through Customs and Border Protection records that at least 340 000 tons of spent batteries were exported for recycling from the United States in 2011 alone,’ Finn writes. This amount ‘dwarfs the sum total of CRT waste in existence across the country’.

Below minimum standards

Taking into account that ‘the majority’ of those exported batteries end up at Mexican recycling facilities that do not meet minimum EPA standards for emission controls or OSHA regulations for workplace safety, the agency would do well not to focus its efforts ‘solely on strengthening export rules for CRT recycling’, according to Finn.

Instead, he contends, the EPA must ‘direct all of its considerable influence and commitment’ to protecting human health and the environment by stopping the export of used lead batteries to any nation that is incapable of recycling lead-bearing waste safely and without environmental contamination.

The North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation recently highlighted ‘significant gaps’ in Mexico’s regulatory framework, leading Finn to conclude: ‘In light of the recent findings, EPA’s emphasis on CRTs is inexplicably disproportionate to the far greater, yet largely ignored, epidemic of lead-acid battery exports to Mexico.’

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