Accra, 29th April 2022 – The Ghanaian Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the Ministry for the Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) has launched the newly developed Standard Operating Procedures for Environmentally Sound Management of Used Lead-acid Batteries in a public event today. The Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were developed in a cooperation between the Sustainable Recycling Industries and the Material Stewardship Program of the global lead and lead battery industries. The SOPs are the first hands-on guidance material on all aspects around handling and recycling of used lead-acid batteries and will be used as mandatory Technical Guidelines in Ghana.

Unsound lead-acid battery recycling is still widespread in many low- and middle-income countries. The inappropriate management of lead batteries is a source of severe pollution, with serious negative consequences for the environment and human health. As a reaction, the United Nations Environment Assembly passed resolutions in 2016 and 2017 encouraging governments to take efforts in this field. The Government of Ghana has taken steps to systematically improve recycling operations, among which the request to Sustainable Recycling Industries to develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the sector.

The SOPs will serve as a clear guidance for policy makers, auditors and plant managers on how to design and operate battery recycling processes in a safe and environmentally sound manner. The SOPs are structured in 37 sheets covering aspects around plant location, licensing, industrial hygiene, safety, and all process steps from collection to lead refining and management of residues. The content of each sheet is supported with pictures illustrating good practices contrasted with unacceptable sub-standard conduct.

The SOPs were developed in a one and a half years effort coordinated by SRI-experts from Mountain Research Institute, the Ghana National Cleaner Production Center and Oeko-Institut. Content development was supported by the Material Stewardship Program that is composed of the International Lead Association (ILA), the Association of European Automotive and Industrial Battery Manufacturers (Eurobat), Battery Council International (BCI) and the Association of Battery Recyclers (ABR). Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Factory Inspectorate Department (FID) and various regional and international experts guided the work.

The SOPs were well received by a variety of stakeholders active in the field, including practitioners, policy makers and auditors. “The structure and illustration of the SOPs and technical guidelines is very useful as it has been simplified to enable various categories of actors to understand and implement” says Ing Selina Amoah of the EPA. According to her “it will also serve as an additional tool for regulators to promote sound practices in the sector that will lead to reduction in the risks to the environment and public health.’’

Mr. Manesh Kumar, the general manager of Recyclers Ghana Ltd. a local used lead acid battery recycling plant, indicates that “the material is really useful. We highly welcome ambitious and enforceable requirements that set a level playing field for all recyclers in the country” he said.

Mrs. Lydia Essuah the Director for PPME at the Ministry for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation indicates that the SOPs and Technical Guidelines will be used for licensing of all ULAB recycling industries in Ghana. “We will make sure that sub-standard battery recycling will become a thing of the past in Ghana. Lead-acid battery recycling is a profitable sector so that we expect all recyclers to upgrade to the requirements set-out in the Technical Guidelines.”

Dr. Steve Binks, Regulatory Affairs Director of the International Lead Association welcomes Ghana’s efforts to improve the sector. “We are very positive about the developments and hope that the transition to a sound battery recycling industry will continue. Other countries face similar challenges and we hope that the SOPs will not only be used in Ghana, but also shared with, and applied in other settings.”

The SOPs are available for download here.

If you would like more information on this topic, please get in touch with Dr. Sampson Atimeo (Mountain Research Institute), Andreas Manhart (Oeko-Institut) or Dr. Steve Binks (International Lead Association).

Sustainable Recycling Industries (SRI) is an international programme aimed at fostering the sustainable integration and participation of small and medium enterprises from developing and transition countries in the global recycling of secondary resources. Funded by the Swiss State Secretariat of Economic Affairs (SECO), and jointly implemented by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) and the World Resources Forum Association, SRI improves local capacity for sustainable recycling together with private and public institutions, as well as the informal sector in Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, Peru and South Africa.

The Material Stewardship Program is a joint initiative between the International Lead Association, BCI, EUROBAT and the ABR, to promote and recognise best practice throughout the lead and lead battery value chains – from lead mining to lead battery manufacturing and recycling.