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The Lead Recycling Africa Project

The Lead Recycling Africa Project was initiated in 2014 after various scientists and environmental groups in Germany and several African countries had collected a substantial body of evidence that unsound lead-acid battery recycling causes severe pollution and has a serious impact on health in many metropolitan areas in Africa.

Although lead-acid battery recycling has long been practiced all over the world, rapid urbanisation, a growing vehicle fleet and an unbroken demand for lead has spurred the rapid growth of domestic lead recycling industries in many African countries. While, formerly, batteries were often recycled in small backyard workshops, such businesses are increasingly replaced by smelters of industrial scale. On the one hand, this development can be seen as a window of opportunity for the introduction of effective pollution control measures. On the other hand, the concentration of potentially harmful practices may even increase the severe health risks for the people working and living in or around such facilities.

In order to expand the knowledge base on lead recycling industries in Africa, Oeko-Institut launched a fundraising campaign in late 2014. With the funds collected, independent scientists in Cameroon, Ethiopia and Tanzania are conducting detailed investigations of the local management and recycling practices applied for waste lead-acid batteries. In promoting a more widespread understanding of the African lead recycling industry, the project aims at stimulating a debate on issues related to health, safety and the environmental performance of this growing sector. The project activities also focus on fostering the networking among scientists and environmental groups in the region and worldwide.