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Citrecycle: Safe, Clean and Sustainable Lead-Acid Battery Recycling

Cambridge, United KingdomKenya
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Citrecycle uses unique technology to provide safe, clean, local and sustainable lead-acid battery recycling for the developing world. Small scale recycling plants are needed to bring responsible recycling to countries; industry invigorated, emissions eradicated, lead poisoning stopped, lives saved.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if lead poisoning was replaced by a job?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Formal and informal lead acid battery recycling, or dumping of batteries, in developing countries, often results in contamination of the environment, water supply and air; exposure to humans is unavoidable. Lead exposure accounts for 143 000 deaths and 600 000 new cases of children developing intellectual disabilities every year. Lack of reliable infrastructure render current recycling techniques economically unsustainable; the problem persists.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Citrecycle uses hydro metallurgy to recycle lead-acid batteries in a safe, clean and sustainable way. Used batteries are bought at greater value than that that can be obtained from informal recycling and local independent co-operatives collect the supply for recyling. Hydro metallurgy inherently restricts poisonous emissions, slashes direct and indirect CO2 and operates profitably at smaller scales by exploiting the full value of each battery. Need for strong infrastructure is overcome, sound legislation is unnecessary to regulate safety and exposure of local communities and the environment to lead contamination is prevented. Pollution, lead poisoning and fatality are replaced by job opportunities, prosperity, cleanliness and health.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Mombasa, Kenya, 2008 and 2014; the residents of the Owino Uhuru settlement were exposed to systemic lead poisoning from a badly built and poorly regulated lead-acid battery recycling plant. Lead content in the dust adjacent to the battery recycling plant, ranged from 45.586 mg/L to 207.840 mg/L. Exposure to such high lead concentrations caused vast health problems in the local population. The plant was closed, but the negative impact on residents continues. These practices resonate around the developing world. Citrecycle offers an inherently safe, clean and local recycling provision that can prevent such disasters. Hydro metallurgy eliminates airborne lead emissions, removing the risk of lead contamination; as well as being carbon neutral.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

143,000 deaths were attributed to lead poisoning in 2015. A failure of the formal recycling sector in developing countries to provide adequate protection for people and the environment, encourages informal recycling or the dumping of used batteries; both practices continue to contaminate the environment. Moreover, growth in the motor and solar panel sectors generate demand for lead acid batteries and in turn the risk of lead contamination increases. For example, Kenya’s motor industry consistently grows by 19% a year in response to infrastructure development, higher incomes and access to credit facilities. The lack of recycling provision coupled with the surge in demand for lead acid batteries heightens the need for a solution exponentially: there is an increasingly urgent need for country’s to address these environmental, social and economic challenges. Citrecycle is the solution.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Lead poisoning resulting from smelting, informal recycling and dumping of lead-acid batteries is prominent in most developing countries particularly those with a flourishing motor industry. Using Kenya as a pilot proof of concept, a plant will be established and the collection model tested within the next two years, subject to funding. Once operating successfully, similar processes will be spread strategically around Kenya. The model can be adapted to suit contextual nuances throughout the developing world. Because of the low capital cost, local owners can sub licence to spread influence.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The recycling plant can operate at a profit at small scales with various revenue streams available. The sale of high value lead oxide paste to lead acid battery manufactures, sale of pure lead on the commodities market and sale of recycled plastics ensures the maximum value from each battery is extracted. It is this commercial viability that will generate investment to expand and spread; as well as the immense CO2 reduction appealing to CSR.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

While minimal competition stems from informal recycling and exporting of used batteries, Citrecycle is the first to address the problem holistically in the developing world. The current pyrometallurgical processes require vast amounts of supply to generate profit. The lack of infrastructure restricts necessary supply, therefore preventing profits and discouraging investment; lack of profit means the problem persists. Generation of profit at small scales enables Citrecycle to disregard infrastructure as a barrier and install a provision that is even cleaner and safer than developed countries.

Founding Story

Citrecycle emerged from Development i-Teams; an initiative pioneered by Cambridge Enterprise of Cambridge University and The Centre for Global Equality that sought to adapt new technology for use in the development context. The challenge was to research how the hydro metallurgical process could be used in a development context. Because of my development background, I was aware of the unique restraints that characterize development and quickly identified the number of sustainable development goals the process could address if adapted properly. Profitability at small scale meant we could unlock the potential of the development restraints and achieve sustainability; a business became viable.


The team currently consists of the four co-founders and directors, working part time. Each director has a different background forming a comprehensive, rounded team. Joshua George - Managing Director - MSc Defence Development and Diplomacy - Global Security Institute, University of Durham. George Lane - Director - MEng Materials and MRes Nanotechnology, current PhD Chemistry University of Cambridge. Vladan Martinovic - PhD Molecular Biology and Biochemistry - University of Cambridge. Jashan Bhumkar - MPhil Advanced Chemistry As the project progresses, experts will be brought in to develop industrial plant design and the chemical process for large scale use.
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