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Millions of tons of used lead batteries flow into the "illegal industry chain" every year

China is the world's largest producer and consumer of lead-acid batteries, and the output of lead-acid batteries accounts for more than 40% of the world's total output. The hidden danger of environmental pollution caused by the production of lead batteries can be prevented, treated and controlled.


Driven by interests and imperfect recycling system, the cases of illegal recycling, violent disassembly and indigenous smelting of used lead batteries have been repeatedly hit in recent years, resulting in shocking pollution. Industry authorities said that at least 60% of China's waste lead batteries flow into informal channels every year, hundreds of thousands of tons of lead-containing waste acid is directly dumped, waste lead batteries recycling and disposal system needs to be improved.


Illegal recycling disposal repeatedly hit, the pollution is shocking


About half an hour's drive from the center of huaian city, jiangsu province, to yuanchi township in huaiyin district, turn onto a remote, nameless country road, and about 10 minutes' drive across the salt river to a deserted embankment where a dilapidated, windswept factory stands without homes or fields.


A large amount of lead-containing waste acid is dumped on site, and dismantling workers lack basic protection. City and countryside connection part build earth furnace smelt, stop 1 year still smell pungent... An illegal lead smelting site in huai 'an, jiangsu province, where four suspects made more than 10 million yuan a year and a half, needs at least 20 million yuan to restore local ecology.


Although it has been shut down for a year, the smell in the air is still pungent and the ground is littered with black latex. The illegal smelting site consists of a large factory building and several workers' dormitories next to the salt river. The salt river is an important river in huai 'an. Inside, two earthen stoves have been removed, leaving two large pits and a pile of fireproof bricks. Black curtains still hung from the surrounding Windows.


According to huai 'an city qingjiangpu district procuratorate case handling personnel, this is illegal smelting suspects hang, the purpose is to prevent outsiders to see the production situation inside. According to an investigation by the ministry of environmental protection, both the land and the water have been seriously polluted, with the main pollutants being heavy metals and acids.


The illegal lead smelting site was set up in March 2016 and was investigated in September 2017. Four main suspects invested 1.3 million yuan and employed more than 30 people. They set up seven hidden dismantling sites to recycle, dismantle and smelt waste lead batteries in different towns.


According to the national hazardous waste list released in 2016, in addition to the waste residue and waste water treatment sludge generated in the production process of lead batteries, the waste residue and sludge containing heavy metals generated in the recovery process of lead batteries, and the lead batteries collected after disassembling, crushing and miscellaneous are also hazardous wastes.


According to the data provided by the procuratorial organs, records that can be checked show that the suspects illegally dismantled more than 15,000 tons of used lead batteries. Preliminary investigation showed that the suspect made more than 10 million yuan, but by the nanjing university institute of environmental planning evaluation, the involved several areas of ecological environment restoration costs at least 20 million yuan.


Currently, the local government in huai 'an is planning to raise funds through public interest litigation, financial allocation of environmental protection funds and other means to restore the contaminated soil.


More than 60 percent of the flow into informal channels, some enterprises secretly a large number of procurement


While investigating this case, huai 'an also investigated and dealt with another case of illegal recycling and disposal of waste lead batteries, with more than 14,000 tons of waste lead batteries illegally purchased. When the reporter searched for criminal cases with the keywords of "lead, battery, disassembly and pollution", he found that 121 similar cases have been investigated since 2014, mainly in shandong, henan, zhejiang and hebei.


"China is entering a peak period of battery scrapping, with the theoretical scrap volume of lead batteries exceeding 6 million tons annually." Ma yonggang, vice President of the lead and zinc branch of the China nonferrous metals industry association, said it is conservatively estimated that more than 60 percent of used lead batteries flow into informal channels.


Gao yanli, secretary general of the China association of materials recycling, told reporters that less than 30 percent of the recycling was through formal channels, with most of the waste lead batteries flowing into informal channels. Another industry believes that the proportion as high as 80%.


An illegal smelting waste lead battery shelter investigated by the public security department of Shanxi Province in early 2018 involves trans-provincial transport of waste lead batteries. The two suspects collected used lead batteries from hebei and other places and transferred them to a breeding farm in xiajiagou village, tianzhen county, datong city. They illegally dismantled and smelted used lead batteries and discharged pollutants at will in xiajiagou village.


Industry insiders said that the average service life of lead batteries is about 2 years, and batteries are made up of 74% lead and its compounds, 20% sulfuric acid, and 6% plastic, with high recycling value. It is revealed that most of the illegal smelting of recycled lead eventually returned to lead battery manufacturers, some lead battery manufacturers in order to reduce costs, secretly a large number of illegal procurement of recycled lead.


The investigation shows that 80% of the recycling of waste lead batteries in the beijing-tianjin-hebei region lies in the illegal social source channels. The recycling amount of the regular battery manufacturers is very small, and 80% of the raw materials of the regular recycling lead enterprises come from the illegal social source channels.


Squeezed by illegal firms, formal firms are hungry


While a large number of waste lead batteries flow into the informal channels, the formal processing enterprises fall into the dilemma of "not enough to eat". Data show that as early as the end of 2015, China's waste lead battery processing capacity has reached 7.2 million tons, but the actual output of recycled lead is only 1.78 million tons.


Reporter investigation found that there are at least the following three reasons: first, illegal recycling disposal of staggering profits, squeezing the formal enterprise survival space. "The huge profit margin is the main factor for the illegal recovery, dismantling and smelting of used lead batteries." Formal dismantling enterprises are in the fully closed environment, the use of automatic mechanical equipment, the waste lead battery crushing, sorting, conversion, the initial investment is huge, 50,000 tons of recycled lead production capacity needs to invest more than 200 million yuan. In addition, each ton of recycled lead tax 2000 yuan, environmental protection costs are also nearly 1000 yuan. In contrast, illegal enterprises do not pay taxes, do not require environmental investment, do not care about the safety of workers.


At present, the recycling price of used lead batteries is about 9,000 yuan per ton, and the price of lead ingots sold by smelting is more than 18,000 yuan per ton. Lead and plastics can be recovered from used lead batteries. The profit per ton of lead ingot sold exceeds 2000 yuan without considering the cost input of recycling and disassembly, as well as the income from plastic recycling.


Because illegal recovery, disassembly, smelting profiteering amazing, illegal enterprises continue to squeeze the formal enterprise's living space, destroy the market order. Because of their low costs, illegal businesses tend to raise prices when they recycle batteries and lower prices when they sell lead ingots, squeezing legitimate businesses at both ends.


Second, the waste lead battery recycling access threshold is high, the disposal enterprise layout is unreasonable. Waste lead batteries belong to hazardous wastes. Article 57 of the law of the People's Republic of China on the prevention and control of environmental pollution by solid wastes stipulates that "it is prohibited to engage in the business activities of collecting, storing, disposing and using hazardous wastes without a business license or not in accordance with the business license". However, the general waste recycling stations do not have the qualification to recover lead batteries, and many enterprises are unable to meet the threshold of comprehensive management license application for hazardous waste, resulting in the inability to standardize the collection. At the same time, the layout of waste lead battery treatment enterprise is not reasonable. According to gao, there are only a few qualified waste lead battery disposal enterprises nationwide, mainly in henan, anhui, guangdong, shandong and other places, while there is no one qualified enterprise in Inner Mongolia, xinjiang and other places.


Third, the lack of supporting policy support, the formal recycling disposal system to be improved. During the two sessions of the National People's Congress in 2018, deputies to the National People's Congress pointed out that China has not established a standardized recycling system for used lead batteries.


In terms of regulations and policies, only the "measures for the management of hazardous waste business license" is used to manage different environmental risks of waste lead-acid batteries. In the implementation of the extended producer responsibility system, there is no clear and practical measures to prevent and control pollution. In terms of tax, there are some problems such as unreasonable tax revenue, excessive tax revenue and weak tax refund policy of legal and normal recycling enterprises, which further increase the cost of legal and normal recycling enterprises.


Multi-pronged approach no longer leaves the whereabouts of old lead batteries a mystery


Industry insiders said that from 2011 to 2014, China had carried out "lead purge" environmental protection storm, and the phenomenon of large number of recycled lead enterprises, small scale and low industrial concentration has been improved. In recent years, as the price of lead has risen, illegal recycled lead has rebounded in small businesses and workshops, and underground production has become more covert.


To avoid supervision, most of these enterprises hide in the urban and rural areas. Some even install small furnaces on their cars, adopt "guerrilla" production methods, flow smelting, and often change smelting sites.


In view of the problems existing in the recycling and utilization of waste lead batteries, it is necessary to accelerate the construction of an effective recycling system for waste lead batteries, improve the storage, recycling, transportation and other regulations of waste lead batteries, and establish a traceable management system. Strengthen the supervision of environmental protection of the recycled lead industry, crack down on illegal recycled lead enterprises; Enterprises using recycled lead shall, in accordance with the provisions of the "hazardous waste transfer form", check and accept waste lead batteries containing acid, and prohibit the purchase and use of illegally recycled waste lead batteries.


Code all lead-acid batteries, track product flow, and do your best to ensure product recovery. For example, in the scrap car industry, every scrap car will be scanned, a battery number will be automatically produced, the battery flow will be monitored, and whether and to whom the battery is sold can be checked.


Relevant departments should issue detailed implementation rules of the implementation plan of the extended producer responsibility system as soon as possible, allowing production enterprises to efficiently carry out the recycling business of waste lead batteries by relying on their subordinate branches, and establish a national recycling system management platform. At the same time, the illegal industrial chain of lead battery recycling and disposal, from the source to ensure that legitimate recycling and disposal enterprises on the track of sound development. The industry also suggested that the waste lead battery recycling industry to reduce the tax burden, improve the competitiveness of formal enterprises in the market.

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