US is outsourcing its Lead-Acid battery recycling…to Mexico?

The United States is outsourcing a product, but not exactly for the typical reasons you might think. America is sending its Lead-Acid battery recycling to Mexico. Why, you ask? The laws governing safety concerns are much less restrictive across the border, than within the US.

The primary concern is the handling of the lead that is extracted from the used batteries. Mexican factories can blatantly ignore the issues with lead emissions spilling into the local environment, with regulations 1/10th as strict as the United States has specified.

As noted by the Miami Herald:

The result has been an ever-increasing surge in the trade of used batteries across the border. One watchdog group estimated that in 2011, the dead batteries headed to Mexico would have filled 17,952 tractor-trailers. And the trade keeps growing, the result of a stark regulatory gap that has left Mexico at risk of becoming a “pollution haven,” according to a Montreal-based commission that investigates environmental issues under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the economic accord between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Most American consumers have no clue what happens to their old rechargeable battery, and likely assume that the retail shop selling them the new one will take care and recycle it properly.

It is highly concerning that the US government does not regulate this sort of export, as mishandling of lead can cause serious medical issues if left untreated. It appears that the business cost of properly recycling the batteries locally is put ahead of the environmental impact this might create, perhaps just a few hundred miles away.
As stated by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – “there is no safe level of lead.”
By Michael Nace

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