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Feb 1, 2019

DOE Steps Up Safe Management of Used Lead Acid Batteries

How much do you do know about the battery that powers up your car? Once it no longer works, you’re likely to discard of it. But the way you discard it can pose serious risks to you and the environment. Because the batteries contain mostly lead, a dangerous heavy metal when it is exposed, it must be properly stored and disposed of.  These batteries must not be thrown in the trash to be dumped in a landfill or are to be left lying around your property. They must be collected, stored and exported under strict guidelines to prevent any contamination. Exposure to the toxic metal or the corrosive electrolyte solution of sulfuric acid can cause burns, coma, seizures, mental retardation, and blindness, damage to internal organs and in severe cases death. The Department of Environment is stepping up the safe management and trans-boundary movement of this hazardous waste. News Five’s Andrea Polanco tells how you can safely dispose of batteries through authorized agents.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Pop the hood of most cars in Belize and you’ll find a lead acid battery. What you’re really looking at is a brick of lead – some batteries contain up to seventeen and a half pounds of lead and one a half gallons of sulfuric acid. Lead Acid Batteries power up vehicles; boats, motorcycles, industrial machines, solar systems and other motorized equipment. But maybe what you don’t think about is what happens to those batteries after they are no longer useful to you.  Do you throw them out in the trash to be dumped in landfills or have them lying around your back yard? If you do – you may be putting yourself and others in danger. When humans ingest or come in contact with lead and acid, it can cause both short-term and long-term health damage.


Jorge Franco

Jorge Franco, Environmental Officer, Department of Environment

“One of the major issue is lead. Lead is a heavy metal. It does affect the endocrine and the hormonal system of the most vulnerable, like women and children. And it could lead to deformities and hormonal imbalances.”


When released into the environment, these substances can contaminate air, water, and soil. And if disposed of in a solid waste landfill or illegally dumped, the lead and sulfuric acid can seep into the soil and contaminate food and water supply. If thrown near or into rivers and other waterways, the two toxic substances can also threaten aquatic life.


Russel Gongora

Russel Gongora, Operations Manager, Chemical Specialties of Belize

“Once it has completed its process, its use, it is very important not to leave it around the yard. Because what it does is that it automatically starts to affect the environment that we live in.”


And that is why the Department of Environment wants used lead acid batteries be handed over to authorized agents who know how to handle these materials. While there isn’t a facility to recycle in country, two of the importers Belize Chemical Specialties and RENCO have implemented the DOE’s technical guidelines to safely handle and store these batteries before they are shipped for recycling. According to the DOE, there are persons who are operating illegally when they buy these used lead acid batteries and exporting them. But it is difficult to determine how they are collecting and storing these used batteries before they are exported. And there is also no way to show if these batteries are being recycled so that the human health and the environment are safeguarded from exposure.


Jorge Franco

“That continues to be a very challenging issue. We are aware that it is being exported. Our commitment to the Basel Convention on the trans-boundary movement of hazardous waste and their disposal requires us to do prior notification in regards to the movement of these substances across borders with party countries.  We are collaborating with them to improve the buy back programme.  In view of having a negative effect on the illegal market, it is to deter the illegal movement of used lead acid batteries. What we are seeking is to formalize the used lead acid batteries.”


Importers RENCO and Chemical Specialties of Belize have buyback programs where you can get cash for used lead acid batteries or you can get a discount to purchase a new one. Chemical Specialties of Belize is an importer and distributor of LTH and Ryo batteries.


Russel Gongora

“We accept any battery. The prices vary according to sizes but the value of the batteries – the commercial sizes have a range between fifteen to twenty dollars depending on the size of the battery. So, if you see a battery lying around in the yard and it is just being thrown away, actually you can put that to very good use – monetary use. You can get rewarded for actually doing something good.”


So these used lead acid batteries can be recycled into other useful products; or reclaimed to make more batteries.


Russel Gongora

“In the case of the batteries, it is ninety nine percent recyclable. It is better than the tires, oils and so because ninety-nine percent of it is recycled. The number one component of it is the lead. The lead doesn’t lose its properties and it can be recycled to produce other new batteries. The electrolyte is actually used to produce other products such as detergents and can also be strengthened up again for the sulfuric acid or electrolytes for the battery usage. That is why it is very important for these batteries to be recollected and made into new batteries.”


Once you take a used lead acid battery to Chemical Specialties of Belize – they are checked in this room to determine if they can still be used or are ready to be recycled. Once they are no longer good to use – they are carefully stacked onto pallets, as per DOE’s regulations, and they are wrapped and then shipped out to Mexico to their parent company Johnson Controls International.


Russel Gongora

“What we do is we get it ready for process for export. We do the proper storage. We store the batteries, we wrap the batteries, we have them palette and then we export it to Mexico.”


The Department of Environment says that because Belize signed on to the Basel Convention of the Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous Waste and their disposal – they are committed to ensure that  humans nor the environment are exposed to hazardous wastes like used lead acid batteries.  If you fail to comply with regulations – you can face hefty fines.


Jorge Franco

“The hazardous waste regulations provide that if you are not properly managing, handling hazardous substances and waste there is a penalty upon summary conviction of not less than twenty-five thousand dollars. However, we would seek those as final resort for non compliance.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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