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Surge in the Export of Illegal Dismantled Lead Battery Electrodes; It's background

It is no secret that the tightening of regulations on lead battery exports in 2017 led to a sharp decline in exports to South Korea, which accounts for the majority of exports, to virtually zero. In recent years, however, there has been attention within the lead battery recycling industry that there may be a surge in the illegal export of grid lead obtained from illegal dismantling as "lead scrap," and the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, the regulatory authorities, are also keeping a close eye on the surge in "lead scrap" exports.

 

The reason why the export of lead battery scrap has been singled out as a target of the Basel regulation by the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry was due to the discovery of illegal disposal of recycling residue (illegal dumping of lead slag) in South Korea, the export destination.

 

(Related article.)

Illegal Lead Slag Disposal in South Korea Reveals Emissions from Five Secondary Refining Companies

Key Points on Export Control of Lead Battery Scrap

Tentative Measures for Examination to Ensure Environmentally Appropriate Management of Export of Used Lead Acid Batteries, etc. (Report)

 

This led to a sharp and drastic decrease in lead battery scrap exports to South Korea, which were eventually reduced to zero, as will be discussed below.

(Related article.)

September 2018 Detailed Analysis of Exports of Scrap Battery Scrap: 2 consecutive months of sharp decline due to the effective implementation of the revised Basel regulations.

Statistical analysis of lead battery scrap exports in May 2019 Finally zero results for South Korea Remaining for China

 

As shown in Graph 1, exports in the form of battery scrap peaked in 2017 and have since plummeted to virtually zero.

 

On the heels of this, exports of crude lead (bullion, Graph 3) and lead scrap (Graph 2) have increased sharply. The pickup from the second half of 2021 is particularly remarkable. It is said that Chinese and other foreign-affiliated illegal dismantlers are said to be stirring behind this trend, and some of them have already been identified. It is said that the cleaning of dismantled battery electrodes (grid lead) is not done properly, the dismantling yards are changed one after another to avoid being caught in the middle of the action, and the delivery of the batteries is reportedly done outside.

 

(Related article.)→ Illegal export of lead batteries caught at the port of Yokohama.

 

To begin with, it was pointed out at the time that if exports of lead battery scrap, which peaked at over 100,000 tons per year in 2017, were to be reduced to practically zero, how on earth could they be returned to the domestic market? Therefore, illegal exports under some form of "disguise" would be unavoidable.

 

If it was impossible to export lead battery scraps as they were, it would be necessary to dismantle the batteries, treat them with toxic electrolyte (dilute sulfuric acid), and thoroughly clean the lead electrodes to be exported, of which the cost burden of treatment makes it difficult for these products to be exported on a commercial basis. In addition, Japan was not equipped with sufficient facilities for this purpose.

 

(Related article.)→Lead Battery Scrap 2023#1: A quiet start to the year, but a tumultuous year in 2023

 

While exports of lead scrap have indeed surged, in absolute terms the annual volume in 2022 will be only 10,000 tons or so at best. In this regard, it is assumed that "grid lead" is exported to Malaysia and other countries as "mixed" with waste plastic and aluminum scrap, as has been mentioned previously (Graph-1).

 

(Graph 1)

 

(Graph-2)

 

 

Exports of lead scrap totaled 11,971 tons in calendar year 2022, the most in the last five years.

 

2018 1649 tons

2019 2528 tons

2020 2185 tons

2021 3966 tons

2022 11,971 tons

 

This shows how the export volume for 2022 is outstanding.

 

The largest export destination for lead scrap in 2022 is Malaysia.

 

(Breakdown of lead scrap export destinations in 2022)

 

Malaysia 6100 tons

Pakistan 2283 tons

South Korea 1271 tons

India 1022 tons

 

Meanwhile, crude lead (bullion) exports has also increased sharply after 2019, reaching over 40,000 tons in 2022 (Graph 3). As for bullion, the increase in bullion exports has nothing to do with illegal demolition for now, as major domestic secondary lead smelters are increasing their production. Domestic "Japanese-affiliated" secondary lead smelters have been increasing their battery crushing and processing capacity and expanding bullion production. We dare to say "Japanese-affiliated" because there is a movement to create a new “Chinese-affiliated “bullion manufacturer. As long as"Japanese-affiliated” have obtained permits and licenses, they are not "illegal" but "legitimate," so there is no problem.

 

(Related article.)→ Lead battery scrap up date 2023#2: Illegal dismantling continues, but the market price is stable.

 

(Graph 3)

 

 

After all, there is still too much of a price difference between domestic and foreign prices for battery scrap, whether it is the export of grid lead from illegal dismantling or the launch of a new secondary refining operation. If the unit price had been closer to the actual price in overseas markets, and if we had continued to purchase scrap lead batteries without dividing them, there would have been enough lead battery scrap circulating domestically.

 

(Related article.)→ Lead battery scrap Up date #21: Stronger due to increase in Chinese dismantlers, 70-80 yen ahead?

 

 

In other words.

 

Strictly speaking, it could be said that domestic lead smelters are partly to blame for this new lead leakage problem.

 

It is planned to hold a joint meeting with related companies (primary and secondary lead smelters), related organizations, and relevant ministries and agencies in the near future to discuss the illegal dismantling and export of grid lead.

 

 

(IRuniverse/MIRU S. Aoyama & Tanamachi)

 

 

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