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Workshop on business innovation and policy solutions to informal recycling of used lead acid batteries in Bangladesh


Workshop on business innovation and policy solutions to informal recycling of used lead acid batteries in Bangladesh
02 - 03 April 2024
Amari Dhaka and Holiday Inn hotels
, Bangladesh

As countries pursue a sustainable energy transition in their transport sectors, electric mobility stands out as a sector which relies much on trade, and in which circularity could have significant negative impacts fo a just transition. In the case of Bangladesh, a rapidly growing number of electric three-wheelers (EZ Bikes, Mishuks, e-rickshaws) move more than 112 million people per day in the country.  This presents a transformative opportunity for urban mobility, fighting climate change by replacing fossil fuel-based transport options. However, this industry has major challenges linked to the circular management of end-of-life lead-acid batteries, the primary technology used in Bangladesh e-mobility.

One EZ Bike alone contains 125 kg lead in the batteries – 15 times more lead than in a car starter battery. These batteries have a very short life and are recycled once a year, generating  over 167,000 MT of lead waste annually. Most of this lead is informally recycled in open-pit bhattis, causing lead contamination and poisoning among exposed workers and indirectly exposed populations. Two in three children in Bangladesh have high levels of lead in their blood, which has been associated with IQ loss, impairing their education and future income, and inducing cardiovascular and renal diseases among other deadly outcomes.

The market for batteries for millions of electric three-wheelers has grown rapidly, reaching around 8,710 crores BDT (USD 871 million) in 2022. Both the vehicles and this battery segment are often informal and unregulated, resulting in large tax losses for the government. Considering that only 30% of the Used Lead Acid Battery (ULAB) recycling is formal, the tax revenue loss for the government reaches USD 91 million per year.

Lack of regulation on battery standards and high import tariffs and taxes on battery imports have led to extensive local recycling, often resulting in very poor quality of batteries. A set of EZ Bike batteries cost over 72,000 Tk (or USD 650) but lasts only 8-11 months. This short life causes a high recycling rate and increased lead pollution. It also increases the operating cost of EZ Bikes, affecting the livelihood of millions of drivers and vehicle owners.

A high amount of electricity is consumed to charge electric three-wheelers, estimated to be over 5% of Bangladesh’s total electricity consumption. Such large electricity use often come from fossil sources such as natural gas, can place strain on the electricity grid and contribute to climate change, negating one of the premises of e-mobility to reduce fossil fuels in transport.

In order to discuss business innovation and policy harmonization efforts to improve the circular economy aspects of e-mobility in Bangladesh, Pure Earth, Georgetown University and UNCTAD are convening a 2-day workshop in Dhaka. The event will address Bangladesh's lead-acid battery industry challenges by exploring commercially attractive solutions for high-quality lead-acid batteries, alternative technologies with higher energy density, business model innovation, and policy harmonization. A Background note prepared under the SMEP Programme will inform discussions.

Workshop 1 (April 2, 2024): Workshop with the Private Sector: Working with the Battery Industry on Solutions for Quality, Sustainability, and Market Access

Workshop 2 (April 3, 2024): Workshop with Policymakers on Electric Mobility in Bangladesh: Unified Policies and Healthier Journeys

The Workshops are jointly hosted by Pure Earth Bangladesh and UNCTAD, as part of the Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution (SMEP) Programme supported by UK-FCDO and implemented in partnership with UNCTAD.  Georgetown University and Stanford University are also participating. The SMEP grant for business and policy innovation on ULABs in Bangladesh is administered by Pure Earth Bangladesh and runs from February 2023 to February 2025.
 

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Co-organizer(s):
Pure Earth, Georgetown University, UNCTAD
Sponsor / funding:
UK-FCDO

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Trade and environment Trade and environment

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Contact

Mr. Henrique Pacini, UNCTAD: Henrique.pacini@un.org  
Ms. Mitali Das, Pure Earth: mitali@pureearth.org   
Mr. Aftab Zaman:  aftab@pureearth.org   
Ms. Amrita Kundu, Georgetown University: ak1924@georgetown.edu