A draft report detailing the growing export of U.S.-generated spent lead-acid batteries (SLABs) to Mexico for recycling purposes has been released or comment, the Montreal-based Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation has announced.
Hazardous Trade? An Examination of US-generated Spent Lead-acid Battery Exports and Secondary Lead Recycling in Mexico, the United States and Canada was initiated earlier in 2012 over concerns that a surge in SLAB exports was an effort to avoid the costs of stricter U.S. environmental and health protection laws.
The surge has increased the danger of lead exposure to workers and communities near recycling operations in Mexico, while undermining the competitiveness of the U.S.-based lead recycling industry.
Key findings include:
- from 2004 to 2011, U.S. net exports of SLABs to Mexico increased by between 449 and 525 per cent, and 221 per cent to Canada (depending on the source of the data)
- the regulatory frameworks covering secondary lead smelters in the United States, Canada and Mexico do not provide equivalent levels of environmental and health protection
- national cross-border accounts in all three countries do not accord with shipping or receiving volumes of SLABs from either sending or receiving countries
- notwithstanding Mexico’s permitting process, there are important gaps in its overall regulatory framework, as well as with respect to the prevailing environmental and public health standards in the United States and Canada.
The report also presents various recommendations to environmental authorities in each of Canada, Mexico, and the United States to address these and other findings. Key proposals are to:
- raise the bar across North America to achieve levels of environmental and health protections in the secondary lead industry functionally equivalent to those in the U.S.
- improve trade compliance efforts
- close the information and performance gaps in Mexico
- ensure accurate and comparable information on lead emissions across North America
- support dissemination and adoption of best practices in SLAB recycling
- foster cross-border cooperation and technical assistance.
The CEC Secretariat encourages all interested persons and organizations to examine this draft and to forward comments to Eduardo Viadas, CEC Secretariat, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The study will be available for review until 21 December 2012, at: www.cec.org/slabs.
The Secretariat anticipates that a final report under this initiative will be presented to the CEC Council for its consideration early in 2013.
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is an intergovernmental organization that supports the cooperative environmental agenda of Canada, Mexico and the United States to green North America’s economy, address climate change by promoting a low-carbon economy, and protect its environment and the health of its citizens.