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ISLC Report 3 ULAB recycling history and the current condition i

2019.09.05 09:25

photoThe third ISLC Report is on the UALB (Used Lead Acid Batteries) recycling history and the current condition in Honduras in Latin America by George Gatlin (Molden president)

 

George Gatlin founded Inversiones Materiales – INVEMA. This company commenced operations in 1994 as an aluminium can recycler with three employees. Today, it employs 445 people and annually collects and processes approximately 120 000 metric tons of a wide variety scrap materials at its San Pedro Sula facility in Honduras.

 

Currently it also processes 2,000 metric tons monthly of PET bottles. It is the only government-licensed PET bottle recycling plant in Central America. It handles ferrous and non-ferrous scrap, waste paper, plastic and e-scrap. Molden, its subsidiary, handles ULAB(used lead acid battery)

 

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photoBefore 2009, most ULAB recycling operations in Central America have been immature and inappropriate. This is why a large share of UALB in Honduras has been exported. INVEMA considered this insufficient and harmful processes as an issue, and embarked on establishing an environmentally friendly UALB recycling plant in Honduras. This is Molden.

 

At first, the plant faced challenges seeking out an appropriate partner, and in the end, it partnered with Fundametz based in Ecuador. They have proven health, safety and environment control culture and provided to Honduras 50-years of technology know-how in lead smelting.

 

Molden, after entering partnership with Fundametz and based on technology improvements deployed from them, has entered into the second phase of raising operational standard to global level, with the help of International Lead Association (ILA) and Miguel Araujo, president of Basel Convention Regional Centre for the Central America Sub-region and Mexico.

 

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photoIn 1994 at the time, UBC(used beverage can) were garbage in Honduras, but they started to purchase on fee, and every two months, the company was exporting a container load of cans to the US. Honduras is a poor country and there were problems with limited access to education in some areas, and UBC collection did not proceed as planned. So they set up collection containers that are easy to access by anyone. Beverage makers’ advertisements were featured there to reduce costs, and win-win relationships built up.   

 

 

 

 

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photoIn 2008, at the time, ULAB recycling was immature in Honduras. Sulfuric acid liquid of batteries was directly drained into the sewer system. Processing was carried out by naked hands and shovels. There were only paper masks. At this point, George sent to visit a lead battery maker in Ecuador with a 50-year experiences in this business.

 

George saw with his own eyes that Ecuador-based lead battery maker (Fundamets) has work wears (workers change daily), dust mask, lunch after shower and tooth brushing, and the company takes care of laundries. He dedicated all his efforts to start up a plant that can recycle ULAB appropriately. This leads to the launch of Molden.

 

By the way, Ecuador-based Fundamets produces 2,000 metric tons per month of lead ingot, and all processes from electrolysis to casting in the seven day period are automated.

Even at this Fundmets, blood lead level of its employees once measured several 100 μg/dL, but it has managed to drop it to the level below the safety standard.

 

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Nevertheless, Molden in Honduras is facing big difficulties today. Honduras government has banned UALB imports, and Moliden is treating locally generated ULAB only. The plant run rate is far from high.

 

Currently, only Guatemala and Costa Rica in South America are able to import ULAB.

 

George said:

“Circular local economy is important for Honduras. I have no intention to compete with Asian countries. Our country can become the base of Central and South Americas. We have a 1,000 mt/month lead ingot production capacity. We are able to meet international price levels. I have asked ILA and other international organizations to urge the Honduran government to allow ULAB imports again, but there is no reply from the government yet, and the company continues to have no access to ULAB imports.”

 

 

(IRuniverse)

 

 

→(Japanese version)ISLC Report 3 ホンジュラスのULABリサイクルの経緯と課題

 

 

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