Q&A on Responsible Lead Battery Recycling

Here are some common questions and respective answers about lead battery recycling:

Q. How are lead batteries designed for recycling?

A lead battery is comprised of three primary components: lead, acid and plastic. It’s also designed to be processed and reused. Other battery chemistries incorporate multiple materials and/or complex componentry, making them much harder to process.

Q. Is there a market for recycled lead batteries?

Very much so—in fact, the battery in your automobile is almost certainly made of mostly recycled lead batteries! About 80% of a typical new lead battery is made from recycled lead battery material, and lead can be infinitely recycled. The lead and plastic from spent lead batteries is valuable feedstock for other batteries.

Q. Have lead batteries and lead battery recycling evolved to meet modern needs?

Yes. Investment and ongoing research have created today’s advanced lead batteries and high-tech recycling facilities. Both are needed more than ever. The demand for energy storage is growing so quickly and the need to mitigate climate change is so great, that a mix of battery chemistries is essential for the electrification of our society, from powering electric vehicles to storing renewable energy.

Q. Are other battery chemistries as recyclable as lead batteries?

Lead batteries are the most recycled consumer product (99%) in the U.S. and the most sustainable battery technology. Most other battery chemistries are not made for recycling, nor is there an existing network of facilities to do so. For example, lithium-ion batteries have  a <15% recycling rate.

Q. What happens if lead batteries are improperly disposed of?

That’s exactly what lead battery recyclers prevent. Lead batteries must be recycled or disposed of at an approved facility. It is illegal to put them in the trash or landfills where they could potentially corrode and pollute groundwater and surface water.

Q. Who regulates the lead battery recycling industry?

Lead battery recyclers are extensively regulated by agencies that include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and their state and/or local environmental regulators. They are subject to stringent environmental permits for their air and water emissions, as well as for the storage and handling of lead-bearing materials. All in all, lead battery recyclers are among the most stringently regulated industrial facilities in the United States.

Q. Do ABR members share best practices in safely recycling lead batteries?

Absolutely. All members meet multiple times each year to share information relative to environmental policies and controls, as well as best practices and measures to protect the health and safety of our employees, contractors and the public.

Q. Is recycling lead batteries regulated?

Yes, but as with any other manufacturing industry, there are risks inherent to the recycling process. That’s why the lead battery industry is one of the most highly regulated industries. Our member companies must adhere to strict EHS standards and often voluntarily exceed them. Learn more at our Health and Safety page.

Q. What percent of airborne lead comes from lead battery recycling?

Lead air emissions by U.S. lead battery recycling plants represent less than 1% of U.S. air lead emissions annually.

Learn more about the lead battery recycling industry’s environmental and sustainability efforts at Our Green Story.