How to Recycle Car Batteries

An Overview On Recycling Car Batteries

You likely don’t think much about your car’s battery, but it is an essential component of any conventional vehicle. And with the rising interest in hybrid and electric vehicle technologies, the problem of battery waste will grow quite a bit in the coming years! Thankfully, the trend in automobile battery recycling is pretty good, with a 90% recycling rate for lead-acid batteries in the US (they have one of the highest recycling rates compared to all other recyclables!).[1] Nevertheless, as a car owner, safe car battery disposal is your responsibility and so it helps to be educated about the issues.

Why it’s important to properly recycle car batteries

The presence of toxic materials in your auto batteries means they’re often considered household hazardous waste (HHW). Here’s why:

  • Heavy metal: The main component in lead-acid batteries is lead which is highly toxic to humans and can contaminate groundwater and soil, and thereby harm wildlife and ecosystems.
  • Toxic acid: The second main component in your car battery is sulfuric acid which is also harmful to human and environmental health.

Help keep these poisonous products out of the environment by properly recycling your auto battery rather than putting it in the trash or sending it to the landfill. Just be sure that you wear gloves and safety goggles when handling your car battery to protect yourself from exposure.

Recycling auto batteries

When car batteries are recycled, they go through several stages. First, they’re crushed into small pieces and the plastic is separated for use in new products. The lead is then purified and sent to battery manufacturers where it is turned into new batteries. But before any of this can happen, you need to get your battery to the proper recycling facility, and most curbside programs won’t allow you to put car batteries with the rest of your recyclables. These battery recycling methods should therefore do the trick:

  • Battery swap: Most states require that retailers and repair shops offer battery recycling when you purchase a new battery for your vehicle. This is by far the simplest method for recycling your auto battery. Call around to various vendors to see which ones offer recycling and give preference to the ones that do. You may be charged a small recycling fee depending on your community’s recycling legislation.
  • Auto retailer/repair shop: If you’re a DIYer when it comes to vehicle repairs, you can often drop off your used battery with a local repair shop, though they may charge you a fee for doing so.
  • Battery collection events: The AAA will often host The Great Battery Roundup to collect used batteries, usually around Earth Day. Alternatively, if your community hosts regular HHW events, you will often be able to drop off old batteries at such times. See our    recycling database for how to locate one of these events in your area.
  • Landfill drop off: When there are no recycling options, your landfill will more than likely have a method for properly disposing of car batteries. Give them a call to find out what they policy is for dropping off used vehicle batteries.

It’s best to transport your used batteries upright in a sealed, secure container in order to prevent any of the fluids from leaking out.






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References

1 Batteries. (n.d.). Retrieved August 5, 2010, from US Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/materials/battery.htm

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