After they’ve served their useful purpose to power cars, trucks, and boats, there are ample recycling opportunities for lead-acid batteries. A good reason for this is because of strict regulations for their disposal. In other words, you can’t just throw them away in the garbage. Instead, use our handy tips for car battery recycling.
Part Recycled, Part Toxic
A typical lead-acid battery contains a high percentage of already recycled lead and plastic. It also contains sulfuric acid and heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and nickel, which are toxic to people. Regulating disposal and car battery recycling eliminates the risk of air and water pollution from these potentially nasty substances!
Car battery recycling means they are broken down to reclaim their components. The plastics are separated and sent to a recycler to make new plastic products. Even the sulfuric acid can be recycled. The acid is neutralized with an industrial compound similar to household baking soda. This turns the acid into water, which is treated before it is released into the public sewer system. Check this site out for a handy infographic.
Lead It Be
About 6 million tons of lead are used each year around the world, and about 75 percent of that is used in the production of lead-acid batteries. It’s great when lead from batteries is recovered because this reduces the need for mining more ore. However, if car battery recycling takes place in an unregulated, unsafe way, it leads to the poisoning of recycling workers and their surroundings. This is the same scenario with electronics, which you can read about in our article on what to ask a recycler. Make sure that materials are not exported to other, developing countries, and that the recycler’s environmental standards are high.
Almost 100 million new lead-acid batteries are manufactured each year, and because of the wide availability of recycling resources, the EPA estimates that over 90 percent of all car batteries in the U.S. are recycled.
Where to Recycle Old Car Batteries
- Pretty much any retailer that sells lead-acid batteries also collects used car batteries for recycling, as required by most state laws. That means most automotive repair or supply shops accept car batteries for recycling, so ask the one near you.
- Scrap metal dealers will often pay for these batteries, as the lead and other metals are profitable.
- Your state’s hazardous waste collection site is also a great place to responsibly dispose of car batteries and other stuff too, like oil-based paint. Here’s where you can find links to every state’s web sites related to hazardous waste programs.
- In conjunction with Earth Day on April 22, AAA hosts Battery Roundup events, where AAA also donates a portion of recycling proceeds to various environmental groups and other charities. To find out more, please contact your local AAA club.
Remember: When transporting an old car battery for recycling, use a cardboard boxes or plastic container and keep the battery upright. Wear protective gloves and/or safety glasses when handling old car batteries. Sometimes the acid leaves a crusty residue that you don’t want touching your skin.