Car Battery Recycling: (Almost) As Easy as Pie

Have any doubts that recycling car batteries is a wasted effort? Think again! The car battery recycling process is relatively simple, and nearly the entire battery is reused. This keeps toxic pollution out of landfills, and assures more efficient uses of our precious resources. This How It’s Made video illuminates the battery recycling process as practical and economical. Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged to undertake sustainable practices when one is unclear on what happens following the initial effort. The great thing about this video is that it demystifies the car battery recycling process, so one can feel more informed and motivated about car battery recycling.

Even though an old or dead car battery may appear to be completely used-up and worthless, it still has an inherent potential of stored energy that can be utilized through recycling. At a battery recycling center, hundreds or thousands of batteries are smashed up, and the lead and metals are separated from the batteries’ plastic housing. The plastic pieces are sent to be recycled into pellets to for use as future battery casing. The lead is then processed out as paste, and the acid is neutralized into water, which is further processed until it is safe to pour down the drain. The lead and remaining metals are processed into a sludge which is dried out. The lead is melted out from this, and quickly formed into bars. Up to three batteries are then made from each bar.

How to Recycle Car Batteries

There are a number of options. Most auto repair shops will take them, but confirm with the shop that the batteries will actually be recycled. Many recycling centers can take them as well -- just check they are equipped to process scrap car batteries. AAA also sponsors the Great Battery Round UP, offering  collection sites to drop off used batteries (portions of the earnings from the recycled batteries are donated to environmental causes).

Prolonging Car Battery Life

You can also prolong the life of your car battery by taking a few easy steps: 
  • Avoid short trips, which wear out a battery more quickly. You'll also reduce fuel consumption and save money at the same time.
  • If you go for longer periods of time without driving (more than a week), you can easily install an inexpensive battery disconnect switch such as this one (sold for $5.99 by Harbor Freight): 

    Once installed, simply open the hood, rotate the knob a few turns, and your battery is now disconnected. This will prevent the car from draining additional energy from the battery while it's turned off and will prolong the battery's life (an additional benefit is that this product also deters car theft).

  • Make sure your battery is clean and uncorroded -- especially around the terminals, and even on the casing. Simply scraping off the terminals and wiping down the casing can make a big difference.

  • Verify periodically that the battery's water level is at least to the bottom of the refill hole.

  • Wrap your battery with an insulation blanket (such as this one from Advance Auto Parts to protect it from extreme heat and cold:
How It's Made 
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