Is it possible to recycle lead acid batteries?


Lead-acid batteries can help you start your car every day. These batteries are composed of lead plates and sulfuric acid, which are enclosed in a plastic cover. The lead plates are very suitable for batteries because they can be charged many times. After continuous use, the lead plate will eventually become weak, and can no longer store energy. So once they run out of energy, what will happen? Lead-acid batteries are highly recyclable, with the recovery rate exceeding 90% in many countries. However, this does not mean that they can enter the trash can at home. When automobile batteries and other lead-acid batteries are finally buried, toxic substances like lead will leak into the environment. How do we recycle lead acid batteries in a strict process? It is necessary to ensure that the different components can be safely reused. 

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Lead-acid batteries can be recycled

On average, a new lead battery consists of more than 80% recycled lead battery material. Every part of the battery, from lead and plastic to sulfuric acid, can be recycled and reused when making new batteries. This reduces the need for new lead mining, reduces waste, and helps to separate lead from landfills. From an industry point of view, lead-acid battery is a successful case in environmental aspects. Compared with commonly recycled products, such as only 38% of glass bottles, nearly 64% of aluminum cans, and about 68% of newsprint can be recycled, lead-acid batteries are the leader in this field. In fact, in the past decade or so, used lead-acid batteries have been the most recycled consumer goods. Here is a step-by-step process for recycling lead batteries. 

1. Collection

This process includes collecting lead batteries from the point of disposal. At this stage, the recycling company will collect the batteries.

2. Crushing

The next step in recovering lead batteries is to disassemble them. At the recycling factory, the recycler uses a hammer mill to break the battery into pieces.

3. Sorting

This process involves separating the various parts of a lead-acid battery. The recycler sorts the plastic and paper components of a battery from the lead and metal components. The lead and heavy metals in the battery will be further processed later.

4. Sieving

During this process, the recycler removes the thermoplastic from the battery. Then, they sifted out the liquid in the battery, leaving behind the dry lead. The lead and heavy metals will enter the final step of recovery. On the other hand, the plastic materials taken out of the battery will be cleaned. The recycler then sends the thermoplastic to the plastic recycler, and the latter reprocesses it. This thermoplastic is a suitable material for making new batteries case. Plastic manufacturers also use these thermoplastics to produce new plastics products.

5. Extraction Processes

The final step of lead-acid battery recycling involves the extraction of the lead and heavy metal components from the remains of the battery. There are two processes involved in this step. The first process is to recover metals from metal-containing materials by using liquid solutions. On the other hand, the second process involves taking out and refining metals by using high temperatures. By combining these processes, the lead and heavy metal in the battery will go through four processes. These processes are calcining (heating), roasting, melting, and refining. The final product is melted lead. The recycler molds the molten lead into a model and then transfers it to manufacturers to make new batteries. 

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Why do We Need to Recycle Lead Acid Batteries?

Unless we recycle lead acid batteries, some toxic components will pose a potential risk to the environment and human health. Here are the benefits as to recycle lead acid batteries. 

First of all, it can save natural resources. Secondary lead or recovered lead is an important lead source for manufacturing new lead-acid batteries, which can reduce the amount of lead needed for mining activities. Secondary lead needs less energy and produces less carbon footprint than newly mined lead. About 60% of the world’s demand for lead comes from recovered lead. 

Secondly, it can save clean air and water. The lead and sulfuric acid in lead-acid batteries are toxic to human beings and the environment, so they are classified as hazardous goods and hazardous wastes. In most cases, the air pollution and water pollution produced by using recycled materials are less than those produced by using original materials. 

Last but not least, it can save Money and Creates Jobs. The employment opportunities created by the recycling industry and related technologies far exceed those of landfills or incinerators, and recycling is often the cheapest choice for waste management in cities and towns. 

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How to Disposal of Lead-Acid Batteries?

  • Keep them away from the reach of children and pets. Because many batteries contain hazardous material, it will be prudent as you await disposal to keep in places where children may not find and play with them or pets swallowing them.
  • Check the battery to make sure it does not leak. If so, immediately put it in a leak-proof container (you can buy special battery boxes made of fiberglass or plastic in an auto parts shop). Battery acid can corrode concrete, so if you have to put it on the ground, see if you can find a sealed asphalt surface. Clean any leaks with lime or baking soda (cleaning materials must also be treated as hazardous wastes). 
  • When transporting the lead-acid battery to the recycling places, place it in a leak-proof container, and ensure that the battery stands upright to avoid acid leakage. 
  • If you have multiple batteries, separate them with a piece of wood or other material, so that the terminals will not touch each other. 
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Lead batteries are the most recycled consumer goods on earth and over 80% of lead batteries are recycled. Through several processes, the specialized lead-acid battery recyclers break old batteries into nickel-sized fragments and separate different components to make new batteries. Considering the benefits to recycle lead acid batteries and remember to put them to the recycling places when your lead-acid batteries run out of energy.

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