Lead-acid batteries commonly used in vehicles are listed as recyclable waste and can be made into a variety of plastic and lead products after they have been recycled, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.
Recycling Fund Management Board executive secretary Ma Nien-ho (馬念和) said that based on statistical data from the EPA, the nation creates about 50,000 tonnes of waste lead-acid batteries a year, which amounts to about 2.3 million batteries of various sizes.
Environmental specialist Auther Lian (連奕偉) said the recycle rate of waste batteries is about 80 percent at present, while the other 20 percent could still be in motorcycle and car maintenance shops or in people’s homes waiting to be recycled.
Lead-acid batteries use a combination of lead plates and an electrolyte of diluted sulfuric acid to produce electrical energy. Improper disposal of the batteries can be hazardous to the environment. While sulfuric acid can cause chemical burns to the skin, lead poisoning can do damage to many parts of the body, including the heart, bones, intestines and kidneys, as well as the reproductive and nervous systems.
The 50,000 tonnes of waste lead-acid batteries contains about 40,000 tonnes of lead, 7,000 tonnes of acid and 3,000 tonnes of plastic, Ma said, adding that they create an estimated of NT$1.42 billion (US$47.5 million) in output value (in lead ingots and plastic) after being properly recycled.
The EPA placed all six of Taiwan’s waste battery treatment plants under surveillance earlier this year and the whole recycling procedure is strictly monitored. The plants receive a subsidy for properly recycling batteries, but they can be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000 for violations of the regulations, Ma said.
The EPA urged the public to properly recycle waste lead-acid batteries via vehicle maintenance shops or local governmental cleaning units.
“If the drivers change the batteries on their own, then they should remember to keep the batteries in an upright position to avoid acid leakage,” Ma said. “It is also recommended that drivers change their battery every three years to guard against rust or corrosion.”