When it’s time to replace your battery, it’s important to recycle your old one. That’s because auto batteries are basically made from three elements: acid, plastic and lead – and, when they are improperly disposed of, the chemicals and heavy metals found within them can seep into soil and contaminate groundwater, streams and lakes. If burned, these noxious substances pollute the air.
These chemicals and heavy metals can have dangerous consequences for people’s health and the environment alike. Because of these dangers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency helped to pass the Battery Act in May 1996 to encourage recycling of old batteries.
Fortunately, it’s easy to be green: you can simply drop your old battery off at the local Advance Auto Parts store (most vehicles, most locations, unless prohibited by law) and we’ll take care of the rest.
The battery recycling process
According to the Battery Council International, the first step in recycling auto batteries is smashing them to smithereens using a device called, appropriately enough, a hammermill. The pieces of the batteries go into a container, with the heavier materials, including lead, falling to the bottom and the plastic staying at the top. The plastic is removed and liquids siphoned.
A recycler then melts the plastic pieces and extrudes them into pellets. The pellets are sold to manufacturers who make new batteries out of them. Lead pieces are smelted and then poured into ingots, which are also sent to manufacturers for use in new batteries. The acid becomes neutralized with the addition of an industrial product that turns it into water; the water is treated before being released into sewer systems. The acid can also be turned into sodium sulfate that can be used in multiple ways, including glass and textile manufacturing, or in the making of new auto batteries.
This is considered a closed loop system, because it can be repeated over and over again, allowing new products to be made from the old.
Auto battery recycling is a great move for the environment, but it’s also smart from a legal sense. Thirty states, according to National Geographic’s Green Living site, ban people from throwing away lead batteries in their trash.
Automotive oil recycling
Advance Auto Parts also recycles used motor oil. And, according to the American Petroleum Institute and quoted by the Environmental Protection Agency (AAP), “Recycling just 2 gallons of used oil can generate enough electricity to run the average household for almost 24 hours.”