Lead acid batteries, especially the flooded type, are widely used in the automotive industry. These batteries provide the most cost-effective solution, in terms of cost per amp hour. Modern wet cell batteries come in two main styles: maintenance-free and serviceable. How do these batteries work? Sulfuric acid in the electrolyte is typically depleted when a battery is being discharged. This reaction allows the electrolytes to closely resemble water. At the same time, sulfate from the acid coats the plates and reduces the surface area where a chemical reaction takes place. The ions that move around in the electrolytes are responsible for creating the current flow.
Some Important Facts About Lead Acid Batteries
Lead acid batteries are a successful sustainable non-ferrous recyclable item. They represent the most recycled consumer goods in the United States. Today, nearly 99 percent of all lead-acid batteries are recycled and more than 85% of lead is used to manufacture lead acid batteries across the globe. In addition, approximately 96% of a lead acid battery’s internal components are recoverable. For example, sulfuric acid and plastic can be reclaimed and all of the lead in the battery is recycled.
According to the Federal EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency), recycling lead acid batteries is one of the best examples in the world of proven environmentally conscious technology.
Most suppliers of scrap batteries are required by state laws to collect used batteries for recycling and sell them to authorized scrap dealers for safe disposal, enabling effective recovery of valuable materials for downstream (battery mills, smelters and manufacturers). In 2018, the industry had a total revenue of $637M; there were nearly 170 companies in this industry with an annual growth rate of 1.6% (from 2013 to 2018).
The value of scrap lead acid batteries varies, influenced by the global trading of lead, the season, supply and demand, the geographic region they are sold in, and what a scrap dealer ultimately offers for them. Most metal recycling companies, including H&C Metals, purchase batteries by the pound, but some companies buy them by the each. In today’s market, retail battery prices can range between $0.18/LB and $.30/LB, delivered to a scrap dealer.
Now that you are aware of the potential values of batteries, below are five types that you should start recycling in 2020:
Auto and truck batteries are the most common units that we receive from suppliers. There are approximately 21 pounds of lead in a typical car battery. Because some of our customers deliver multiple batteries at one time, H&C will provide pallets and a helping hand for convenient loading and assistance. This significantly reduces the amount of labor and time necessary to transfer heavy batteries to our scales. Our forklift truck operators can then easily weigh the pallets for prompt service and payment.
Steel Cased industrial Forklift Batteries
Steel cased industrial batteries are typically scrapped from forklift trucks and other types of heavy machinery. These units are significantly larger than standard car batteries. The large battery cell units are situated in an open-top, steel plate box or “tub”, with the battery terminals facing up at the open part of the tub. The combined weight of the steel box and multiple battery units make these types of batteries very heavy — ranging in weight from 1,200 lbs. to 5,000 lbs. each. If you are planning to scrap these steel case batteries, be sure to check their labels to ensure that you have lead-acid based batteries. GNB Industrial Power does manufacture steel cased industrial batteries that are absolyte batteries— they are not considered lead acid batteries. If you are not sure what you have, you can leave this task to H&C Metals. We have years of experience in identifying and handling industrial batteries.
Uninterruptible Power Supply Batteries (UPS)
UPS batteries are typically used to provide back-up power for data centers, computer systems, servers, and other types of telecommunication systems. These batteries are often found and used in large companies. They are not to be confused with standby batteries because they are typically larger than UPS batteries and weigh approximately 700 pounds due to increased lead content. In addition, standby batteries are manufactured to sometimes last a couple of decades, e.g., 20-25 years.
Valve Regulated Lead Acid Batteries (VRLA)
Also known as sealed glass mat batteries, valve regulated batteries are a type of rechargeable battery. This type of battery also functions as a back-up to provide uninterrupted power supply to computer and telecommunication systems. VRLA battery end-users are required to comply with all applicable State and Federal regulations by arranging their VRLAs to be recycled in an environmentally sound manner. For example, these batteries should be sent to fully EPA-approved secondary lead smelters—the same parties that H&C sells to.
Absolutes are one of the best-selling large VRLA batteries in the world. It is a sealed maintenance-free battery that features high capacity and superior industrial quality. It is primarily designed for longevity (lasts up to 20 years) and enhanced cycling performance.
Because these batteries contain a toxic chemical element called cadmium in the battery plates, absolutes must be recycled differently than other typical batteries. In order to avoid harming the environment around you, it is important to work with a reputable scrap dealer or SAFE “home” that is familiar with this type of battery.
Who do You Call if You Want to Recycle Batteries?
All of these batteries can be recycled at a mill designed to process them—depending on their content, whether in domestic or international mills (e.g., South Korea). If you have questions about how to recycle any of these five kinds of batteries, don’t hesitate to call H&C Metals. We can advise about the type of battery, value, proper packaging prior to transport, and more. H&C Metals is your regional professional expert for all your battery identification and recycling needs.
If you are interested in knowing how batteries are processed and repurposed at a battery mill, be sure to watch this educational video.