GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) Virtually every household in the Gaza Strip relies on batteries to keep their home running — a result of years of chronic power outages.
These batteries have helped to mitigate one crisis. However, they are causing another crisis by accumulating large amounts of old and unused batteries in a region that isn’t equipped to dispose of them safely.
There is a real danger of these batteries being collected and stored randomly in open air. Not in warehouses, stated Mohammed Musleh from Gazas Environment Authority.
He stated that the most serious threat to the battery’s integrity is the release of sulfuric acid-containing liquid into the soil and water aquifer.
According to the Gaza Environment Authority, there are 25,000 tonnes of old batteries scattered across the small and overcrowded territory. There are no recycling facilities available in Gaza, and Egypt has imposed a strict blockade on shipping batteries abroad.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency used batteries pose a number of threats to the environment and public health. While different types of batteries may contain potentially hazardous metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium; some can catch on fire.
These risks are particularly acute in Gaza, where the health system has been destroyed by years of conflict and lack funds, and where the environment and environment are already in desperate condition. High saline levels from overextraction have rendered almost all of Gaza’s water unusable.
Israel bombed Gaza’s only power plant in 2006 during fighting and imposed a blockade on Egypt in the following year, after Hamas militants seized control of the strip from other Palestinian forces. The result was a daily blackout lasting for at least eight hours. During winter storms or conflicts, longer outages can occur that can last for days.
This has made batteries an integral part of daily life for the 2 million residents.
A hazardous waste unit is located in Gaza City, which is designed to dispose of old batteries safely. Ahmed Abu Abdu is the head of this hazardous waste unit. He says that very few batteries reach his facility. Instead, a small private business has emerged.
Every day, donkey-drawn carts or cars carrying collectors roam Gaza calling out to people who want to sell their old batteries. Old batteries can be sold for as little as $1 depending on their size.
Khaled Ayyad is just one of many merchants who purchase the old batteries. He has been collecting the batteries for eight years and storing them in a warehouse in northern Gaza.
Ayyad’s goal is to export the batteries and make decent profits.
As the Israeli side allows them (batteries) into Gaza, it has to let them go out,” he said. “We can sell them to factories in Israel, European countries and all over the world.
However, exporting batteries is still prohibited and Ayyad now faces a new dilemma: He has approximately 500 tons of batteries stored in his warehouse.
He cannot resell, export, or dump them and has been paying storage fees. So, he sent a message out to Hamas: We request that the Egyptian officials speak with us about exporting them to Gaza.
There is a precedent. Through a crossing at Rafah, Egypt and Hamas have increased trade cooperation in recent times. It is used primarily to deliver goods such as construction materials, fuel, and tobacco products into Gaza. It has also been used for shipping scrap metal to Egypt.
Ayyads warehouse is concrete, but most other storage locations are outside, which can lead to spillages of hazardous materials directly into the soil.
Although there have not been any studies on the environmental threat, research done in 2013 by a Gaza neurologist and an environmental scientist showed that children who handle discarded batteries can be poisoned with lead.
Hamas authorities have since 2017 banned the importation of secondhand batteries in an effort to reduce danger.
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights based in Gaza issued a 2018 warning about the danger of batteries.
Hussein Hammad, of the rights group, said that there is a problem. Here, the batteries have started to affect human rights: the right to health, the right to clean environment and the right to life.”