What You Need to Know About Auto Battery Recycling

Man in garage holding a car battery When it’s time to replace your auto battery, it’s important to recycle your old one. That’s because auto batteries are basically made from three elements: acid, plastic, and lead. Improper disposal of batteries can have dangerous consequences for people’s health and the environment alike. Chemicals and heavy metals found in batteries can seep into soil and contaminate groundwater, streams, and lakes. When batteries are burned, noxious substances pollute the air. Because of these dangers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency passed the Battery Act in May 1996 to encourage recycling of old batteries.

Fortunately, it’s easy to be green. We have a recycling program here at Advance Auto Parts. Simply drop off your old battery at any of our stores (most vehicles, most locations, unless prohibited by law) and we’ll take care of the rest. For additional recycling facilities that will take your automotive batteries, check out earth911.com.

How car batteries recycling works

According to Battery Council International, the first step recycling companies take when they recycle an auto battery is putting it through a hammermill, which effectively breaks the battery into countless small pieces. Those pieces flow into a container, with the heavier materials, including lead, falling to the bottom and the plastic remaining on top. The plastic is removed and the liquids siphoned. The recycler then melts the plastic pieces and extrudes them into pellets which are then sold to manufacturers who use them to make new batteries. The lead pieces are smelted and poured into ingots, which are also sent to manufacturers for use in new batteries. The acid becomes neutralized with the addition of an industrial product that turns it into water; the water is treated before being released into sewer systems. The acid can also be turned into sodium sulfate that can be used in multiple ways, including glass and textile manufacturing, or in the manufacture of new auto batteries. This is considered a closed loop system because it can be repeated over and over again, allowing new products to be made from the old.

Reasons auto battery recycling is a good idea

Auto battery recycling is a great move for the environment, but it’s also smart from a legal sense. Many states have passed legislation that makes it illegal to dispose of car batteries by just throwing them in the trash. And if you need another reason to choose the recycling route for your auto battery disposal, consider this: you'll get paid for recycling your battery. Many auto parts purchases include what's known as a core charge. On new parts that contain a component that is recyclable—such as a battery or a starter—a core charge deposit is charged at the time of purchase. When the old part is returned to the store, the core charge is refunded. Even if you're not purchasing a new battery you can still drop off your old one at most Advance Auto Parts stores where you'll receive money back in the form of store credit.

Automotive oil recycling

We also recycle used motor oil for free. And, according to the American Petroleum Institute and quoted by the Environmental Protection Agency, “Recycling just 2 gallons of used oil can generate enough electricity to run the average household for almost 24 hours.” Learn more about how to recycle motor oil. And share your recycling tips in the comments.

Last updated June 13, 2017