Not All Batteries can be Recycled the Same Way

Lead battery recycling is one of the biggest success stories of our generation.  Ninety-nine percent of all lead batteries manufactured are recycled to make into new batteries. All elements of the lead battery can be recycled, including the sulfuric acid.

The same cannot be said about other battery chemistries.  Though some other batteries like Nickel Cadmium (Ni-cd) or Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) can also be recycled, they need to be separated from lead batteries and shipped on their own.  Alkaline batteries can be recycled at a cost, but when it comes to lithium ion or other lithium-type batteries, very few can be fully recycled. And because there are so many different types of lithium batteries now coming to end of life, battery handlers need to be aware of the differences for properly disposing of or recycling the different types of batteries.

Interstate Batteries Recycling recycles about one billion pounds of scrap lead batteries every year. The vast majority of what we recycle comes from car dealers, auto parts stores, the telecoms industry, scrap yards and battery specialists all across the country and in Canada who are looking to ensure their scrap lead batteries are properly handled. We process the batteries in full truck load quantities. The scrap lead batteries are raw material to make new lead batteries.

Recently, we have received a number of orders from our customers that included non-conforming batteries with lead batteries.  Besides being a strict violation of DOT regulations, this could also create other issues such as personal injury or damage to smelter equipment if those batteries entered the battery breaker.

The exemptions provided by the DOT were written specifically for lead batteries.  If you include other battery chemistries on loads with lead batteries, the exemption disappears and now you have a hazardous materials load, not to mention opening the door to fines and expensive disposal charges.

Educating battery handlers who accept batteries at their scrap yard or used auto parts business is the first step to ensuring that different battery chemistries are not included with lead batteries destined for recycling.

First of all, separate the different battery chemistries. You cannot include Ni-cd, Ni-MH, alkaline or lithium batteries with a load of lead batteries.  Battery packers need to be on the lookout for lithium auto batteries that very much resemble traditional lead acid auto batteries.  They are almost identical to a lead acid battery in design except for some labeling and the diminished weight of the battery itself.  Lithium batteries weigh about 20 lbs less than a typical lead acid auto battery.

We’ve noted some customers seem to believe that if it’s a battery, they can just include it on a pallet of lead acid batteries for recycling. This is not the case.  Non-conforming batteries that come in with a load of lead batteries will be tracked back to the shipper and penalties or disposal costs will be assigned. For example, it you included 100 lbs of lithium batteries with a load of lead batteries, you would be charged up to $500 by the smelter to have the lithium batteries properly disposed of.

This includes any batteries sent back by you for recycling, even if you did not know that a lithium battery or other non-conforming scrap might be tucked away inside a pallet of lead batteries you sold to be recycled. The responsibility and cost recovery lies squarely on the shoulders of the shipper.

For more information on how to recycle different types of batteries, contact Interstate Batteries Recycling at 888-872-4001.