Reducing tax, doling subsidies to regulated recycling sector can help reduce lead pollution: Study

By: |
September 06, 2021 4:17 PM

The team used a system dynamics model to explore the implications of economic policies quantitatively on the recycling of used lead-acid batteries.

The team's research was aimed at finding out appropriate policy instruments that can help India reduce lead pollution

Reducing tax and providing subsidies to the regulated recycling sector can help reduce lead pollution from lead-acid battery recycling, a study by researchers from Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) Madras and Kanpur has found. Researchers from the two institutes have come together to look collectively at the problem of lead recycling in India as lead pollution can harm the mental and physical health of people and can contaminate the environment.

The team’s research was aimed at finding out appropriate policy instruments that can help India reduce lead pollution. The results of the research have been published in international research journal ‘Resources, Conservation and Recycling’. According to the team, the workers who recycle lead in an informal setting break the lead-acid batteries in a fashion causing spillage of acid and lead dust in the soil and surroundings. Also, the lead is melted in open furnaces due to which poisonous gases reach the air. This way of lead recycling is not only harmful to the environment but also the health workers engaged in the recycling process.

However, the low operational cost of this manoeuvre makes it still an attractive choice. The presence of the informal sector and its undesirable consequences are more predominant in developing countries where the costs and lenient regulations and laws have helped the unregulated sector to grow at a faster pace.

The study suggested that policy guidelines such as reducing tax on the regulated recycling sector and providing subsidies to regulated recycling and re-manufacturing sectors reduce lead pollution from lead-acid battery recycling. Another important finding was that a very high subsidy to the formal re-manufacturing sector can lead to the shutting down of both regulated and unregulated recycling sectors.

“The insufficiency of primary lead sources to satisfy the demand makes the recycling of used batteries necessary. However, the unscientific way of recycling by the unregulated sector poses serious environmental and health threats due to the high amount of lead excretion. We studied to quantitatively assess the impact of different policy instruments on shifting the recycling business from unorganized to the organized sector in India,” said R K Amit, Professor at Department of Management Studies, IIT Madras.

In the study, the researchers have assessed the impact of policies such as reducing tax on regulated recyclers, subsidies to organised recyclers and formal battery re-manufacturers on the performance of battery recycling to name a few. The team used a system dynamics model to explore the implications of economic policies quantitatively on the recycling of used lead-acid batteries.

“From the implementation point of view, the policymakers can consider the results of this study to frame policies and rules for the LAB recycling activity in India. As a natural course of future research, the implication of these policies on the social dimension, in terms of job loss in the unorganised sector and possible ways through which the unorganised sector’s workforce can be integrated with or relocated to the organised sector will be explored,” he said.

Lead is used in various industries such as paints, cosmetics, dyes, ammunition, and jewellery,but the battery sector remains the major consumer of this metal by utilising 85 per cent of the production. Several rules on battery waste management, handling and recycling have been put in place at appropriate times by respective countries to handle lead pollution.
Recycling was put forward as a good way to deal with the scarcity of metal and to handle the accompanying pollution.

However, the proper recycling of lead is still a concern and it is lagging due to mushrooming of the unregulated battery recycling sector alongside the regulated ones.

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