China doubles its lead recycling targets for 2020

China has more than doubled its output target for recycled lead, setting a 2.5 million tonne target for 2020, the information agency S&P Global Platts reported on March 21.

This figure will increase the total output of recycled lead in 2015, 1.5 million tonnes, by 67%, the agency quoted the Henan Provincial Nonferrous Metals Guild as saying.

“These are laudable, realistic targets,” said Farid Ahmed, principal analyst, lead markets, at Wood Mackenzie.

“There’s an awful lot of lead available for recycling: more than five million tonnes, before you take out the quantity that is exported.

“Our forecast is that 2.5 million tonnes is a realistic figure if we consider that the average battery life is four years, and batteries made in and around 2015/16 will be available for recycling by 2020.

“The problem is that the Chinese need a formalized recycling system – they need to establish a closed-loop system. This is under way, however. Smaller producers are getting together to try to collaborate with bigger producers to form a closed-loop system.”

Ahmed quoted a report by the Beijing University of Technology, which in 2015 said that some 40% of lead ‘disappeared’.

“That’s not to say it’s not being recycled — it probably is — but it needs to be formalized.”

Ahmed said the Chinese government could introduce measures such as a refundable battery levy, which would be repayable once the old battery was presented.

In December, the Shanghai Metals Market reported that new regulations for the secondary lead industry would go in force. They included upgrading technology and protecting the environment, and also dictated that each scrap battery facility must process at least 100,000 tonnes a year — therefore eliminating the smaller, unofficial operations.