When you scrap your old car, truck, boat, or lawnmower, what happens to the battery? Lead acid batteries are 70% recyclable, so there’s a good chance your old battery will be recycled.
Why recycle lead acid batteries?
Just like standard household batteries, lead acid batteries can’t just be tossed in the trash. Each battery is filled with two lead plates and a sulfuric acid solution and encased in a protective plastic outer shell. If batteries aren’t properly recycled, the lead and acid can leach into the ground, harm animals and humans, and affect the groundwater supply.
Recycling lead acid batteries
Each old battery is broken apart in a mechanical hammer mill; then the battery pieces are submerged in a tank. The lead and other heavy metals fall to the bottom and the plastic pieces float to the top, where they will be collected and melted down. Lead, too, is collected and smelted into ingots—large, rectangular bars of metal. Battery manufacturers will reuse both the lead and the plastic to create new batteries.
Recycling plants handle sulfuric acid differently; acid can either be neutralized with industrial-strength baking soda or converted into sodium sulfate. Acid neutralized with baking soda is converted into water, which wastewater plants can treat, clean, and test for reuse. Manufacturers use sodium sulfate, a white, odorless powder, to make glass, laundry detergent, and textiles.