Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution Programme


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Photo credit: Pure Earth

Informal recycling supply chains for used lead acid batteries have led to a disproportionate amount of lead poisoning in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization, there is no safe level of lead exposure, which makes it a highly unsuitable and dangerous activity for the informal sector.  In Bangladesh, between 23 to 46 million children have blood lead levels higher than 5 μg/dL (UNICEF, 2020).  Informal lead acid battery recycling and manufacturing is the primary source of this lead poisoning. 

Due to the severity of this pollution challenge in Bangladesh, and the fact that the country has seen a sharp increase in the use of lead-acid batteries and the practice of informal recycling, SMEP has prioritised funding for an intervention in this area.

Due to the marginal nature of the informal activities, it is not feasible to make investments into proper facilities and processes to manage lead exposure in this sector, and the solution to this widespread pollutant and human health problem is to ensure that the recycling take place in formal locations. 

Georgetown University has been contracted to lead an intervention focussed on testing a business model amongst the operators who rent out the 3 wheeler easy bikes – a primary user group of the lead batteries.   The model is designed to encourage the uptake of good quality batteries, promote practices to ensure better battery lifespan as well as strengthen formal buy-back systems.  The business model is to be tested through randomised control trials, and will be supported by a model for policy intervention. 

For more details on the project under contract, please visit the project profile below:

Scoping Research:

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