A number of Vietnam’s handicraft villages are seriously polluted through their practice of battery recycling.
Workers at a battery recycling workshop
According to the Vietnam Environment Administration under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, in 2010, 40,000 tonnes of lead batteries were discharged into the environment, with the figure set to rise to nearly 70,000 tonnes in 2015.
Most of the batteries are recycled in villages. Dong Mai Village in the northern province of Hung Yen is home to 60 households which employ 500 people to collect batteries. Due to backward recycling technology and lack of environmental protection measures, the village is facing serious pollution from lead dust, fumes and leaking acid fluids. Children are heavily affected by the lead pollution.
Perry Gottesfeld, Director of Occupational Knowledge International Organisation, warned that improper recycling leads to large amounts of lead dust being released into the environment. A small amount of lead can badly affect children’s intelligence and induce diseases such as anaemia, kidney failure and heart troubles.
The Vietnam Environment Administration warned in a report three years ago that longevity in Dong Mai Village could decrease by 10 years because of the environmental pollution.
Meanwhile Te Lo Village, Yen Lac District, Vinh Phuc Province, is famous for restoring old vehicles.
Nguyen Dinh Hoi, Head of the village’s management board, says that the industry discharges tonnes of oil, polluted sand and rusted metal into the village’s dumping ground and on the banks of the nearby Phan River every day. This has contaminated the local water sources.
To Van Thanh, Deputy Director of Tia Sang Battery Company, said 10 years ago, Vietnam’s biggest cell and battery producers recalled old products for recycling, however, they now offer lower prices than those offered by scrap-iron dealers.
Thanh said “Regulations related to recalling expired and old products should be issued.”
Economists said Vietnam now has 28 million motorbikes and 1.5 million cars, a number increasing 20-25% annually. By 2021, the country will have a total 60 million of motorbikes and cars, with millions of batteries set to be discarded yearly.
The construction of a 40,000 tonne annual capacity lead battery recycling factory is essential to deal with the situation. The factory could help save battery producers between USD10 million and USD20 million spent on refined lead imports, experts suggested.
Le Van Kieu, Former Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said Vietnam should quickly implement regulations on recalling discarded products. Product pricing currently already includes a 10% environmental fee charge.
The Vietnam Environment Administration is compiling a draft document which would put the onus on companies to recall used batteries, power cells and tires to avoid environmental pollution.
A worker covered in lead dust