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A recycling solution is necessary for the most short-lived component of most products: the battery

Recycling facilities can be found in these African countries

Battery recycling

Mass production without recycling leads to a massive problem. That is also true of solar products. According to business figures from various producers, hundreds of thousands, even millions of solar lamps are distributed in Africa alone. There are currently no arrangements for dealing with used solar products.

Solar home systems (SHS) and solar products comprise, basically, a module, electronics, and a battery for energy storage. Since batteries are the most short-lived component of the solar product, regardless of whether they contain lead, quick silver, lithium, nickel, or cadmium, a recycling solution is necessary: none of these heavy metals should end up in the environment.
Lead batteries are the most common energy storage devices because they are compatible with use behavior (no memory effect). As lead-acid batteries, they are used in automobiles, buses, trucks, and railways, among other places. Lead-gel batteries are suitable for solar systems. Their advantage is that they are lighter, service-free, and do not have to be mounted level. After four to five years, they, too, have to be exchanged. Recycling facilities for lead-acid batteries can be found in northern Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia), in western Africa (Senegal, Ghana, and Nigeria), in central Africa (Cameroon), in southern Africa (South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland) and in eastern Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia). However, these facilities are concerned mainly with the recovery of the lead (ca. 70 percent of the total battery) as a valuable raw material. Plastic casing, separators, connections, and mainly the sulfuric acid are not reintroduced into the recycling cycle.
Lead is one of the most toxic heavy metals. Emissions present the major problem in recycling lead. Workers at the recycling facilities are, as a rule, not trained or protected against poisoning. Among other things, the International Lead Management Center (ILMC) demands that an inventory of the presence of lead batteries be made and mandates an examination of the existing recycling facilities. In addition, the public must be informed about the dangers of handling used energy storage devices. Already in 2001, the ILMC demanded a legal framework for regulating the collection, transport, and recycling to avoid endangering people and the environment.
Recycling must be an integral component in the distributions concept for the operation of solar products in rural regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This not only benefits people and the environment, but also offers an opportunity to gain new economic perspectives through the processing and extraction of raw materials. That would then be a benefit all around.

Source: sun-connect 4 | November 2010 (p. 12)