Lead-acid battery recycling begins with separating the components of the plastic casing, lead plates, and sulfuric acid. Each component is processed and recycled to make new batteries, using up to 99 percent of the old components. Local recycling centers, auto parts retailers, and additional turn-in options are available, making spent lead-acid batteries one of the most frequently recycled items in the United States.

If you have an old car battery, we have the information you need to recycle your battery.

How Do Lead Acid Batteries Get Recycled?

Lead acid batteries have several separate components that can be recycled individually:

  • Plastic casing
  • Lead
  • Battery acid

Unlike many composite items, every component of a lead acid battery can be recycled. The recycling process is reasonably straightforward. Lead acid batteries begin recycling in a machine where rotating hammers pulverize them. Metal and plastic pieces follow a conveyor into a holding tank with water while the battery acid is filtered out. The metal pieces sink, and the plastic casing floats. Plastic pieces are skimmed, then sent to a plastic recycling facility. It is typically melted to become plastic pellets.

A chemical compound neutralizes sulphuric acid and turns it into water. The water is then cleaned and tested. Once it meets clean water regulations, it can be safely released into the municipal sewer system. Some recycling centers can convert battery acid to sodium sulfate for glass and textile manufacturing.

Lead is melted back into a liquid, purified, and poured into molds. Each bar poured during this process contains lead that will eventually be used to make up to three new units. Manufacturers will create new units using recycled plastic pellets and lead, thus completing the recycling loop.

Different Ways to Recycle Lead Acid Batteries

Several ways to recycle spent rechargeable batteries responsibly exist, depending on your situation. Unfortunately, you can only drop an old car battery on your curb with your trash if your city offers a recycling service.

Some municipalities do offer hazmat disposal drop-off locations within their structure. Others may provide annual disposal days or weekends to allow residents to dispose of unwanted or spent batteries.

There are also additional options available, including:

  • Local auto parts retailers
  • Auto mechanic garages
  • Home improvement warehouses
  • Paid recycling centers
  • Municipal recycling centers

Contact your municipal public works department if you need help recycling lead-acid batteries. They can offer you a list of options.

Most Local Auto Parts Stores Will Accept Lead Acid Batteries

Stores that sell new lead-acid batteries also participate fully in recycling batteries. The retail establishment often charges you a core fee when you buy car batteries. You will get that fee back when you return your spent battery. This deposit ensures that you return the dead battery for recycling.

If you have spent lead acid batteries and are not purchasing a new battery, some store stores will accept them for drop-off. You won’t receive a core deposit, but you can be assured that it will be turned in for lead acid battery recycling.

How a Paid Battery Recycling Service Works

Some lead acid battery recyclers offer a paid recycling service. Disposing of your used batteries in this manner means you may pay a small fee. If you don’t have any other options, paying a few bucks to a recycling service ensures that you are working to protect the environment.

If you want to organize a neighborhood hazardous materials drop-off event, using these services for recycling lead-acid batteries can be an excellent economical choice.

Find a Lead Acid Battery Recycling Center Near You

The internet is a great way to find businesses that recycle lead batteries. A quick search will net you a list of available options. Refine your search to include your specific location, such as “battery recycling centers in Seville, GA.” Our tip is to begin at local auto parts stores (such as Napa Auto Parts or Advance Auto) and big box home improvement centers.

Your state may also have specific laws regarding used lead acid batteries. You can research the laws in your state from the Battery Council International website.

What Other Types of Battery Recycling Programs Are Available?

There are battery recycling services to safely dispose of all battery types, including lithium-ion. Finding drop-off locations is relatively straightforward with a quick internet search. No matter what type of old batteries you have, they can be recycled.

Lithium-ion batteries are used for many electronic applications. Due to the volatility of the primary component, lithium-ion batteries can be more difficult for battery recyclers. This type of battery is commonly found in electric vehicles, home solar storage, and many types of small electronics.

Alkaline and rechargeable batteries are commonly considered disposable because most people toss them in regular trash bins. However, many office supplies and electronics stores offer free drop-off. Some recycling services work with local schools to collect and recycle household batteries in exchange for donations to the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) or other charitable groups to provide student extracurricular activities.

Lead Acid Batteries – Just the Facts

Lead acid batteries are recycled more often than any other consumable product. Nearly 99 million lead-acid batteries are made every year. According to the EPA, approximately 99 percent of all old car batteries are recycled. Some of the most common uses for lead-acid batteries include:

  • Automobiles
  • Golf carts
  • Forklifts, pallet jacks, and other warehouse equipment
  • Wheelchairs
  • Boats
  • Motorcycles
  • Riding lawnmowers

Lead-acid batteries are rechargeable and capable of providing electrical power to many types of equipment. The components of a lead-acid battery include:

  • Positive (lead dioxide) and negative (sponge lead) lead plates
  • Insulating material between the plates
  • Electrolyte (water and sulphuric acid)
  • A plastic housing

In a car, the alternator recharges the battery while the engine runs. When used in systems other than engines, the batteries must be charged using a charging station powered by electricity.

More Facts on Battery Usage

Lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries are an integral part of society. Whether they are for an automobile, electric vehicle, or store power within a solar power system, we will continue using batteries. Recycling the components means maintaining the accessibility of this vital asset.

More than 275 million cars and trucks in the United States use lead batteries to power our transportation needs. Within the telecommunications industry, 88 percent of all backup power to keep systems running 24/7 is generated with batteries.

Reliability, cost, and safety are prime reasons batteries will remain a significant power storage source. Recycling programs will assist in maintaining a ready supply.

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