Battery Council International (BCI), Chicago, and Essential Energy Everyday have released a study showing lead batteries have a recycling rate of 99.3 percent, making them the No. 1 recycled consumer product in the U.S.
The groups say the near-perfect rate of recycling is attributed to industry investment in a closed loop collection and recycling system that keeps 1.7 million tons of batteries out of landfills annually.
The National Recycling Rate Study, released in conjunction with America Recycles Day Nov. 15, 2017, demonstrates the sustainability of lead batteries and their role in environmentally friendly energy storage for automotive and industrial applications, say the organizations.
Mark Thorsby, executive vice president of BCI, says, “Our goal for the lead battery manufacturing process is to collect and recycle and reuse lead batteries and their components. In essence to create a ‘closed loop industry’ that significantly reduces the demand on global resources.”
Thorsby continues, “On average, a new lead battery is comprised of more than 80 percent recycled lead battery material. Every part of the battery, from lead and plastic to sulfuric acid, is recyclable and reusable in manufacturing new batteries. This reduces the need for new lead mining, reduces waste and helps keep lead out of landfills.”
In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that the rate of lead battery recovery was almost 99 percent, the highest recycling rate among other more well-known recycled products, such as newspapers (63 percent), aluminum cans (55.1 percent), tires (40.5 percent), glass containers (32.5 percent) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles (32.2 percent), the groups note.
“Our country needs energy delivered in an environmentally friendly, safe and affordable manner and the recycling rate our industry has achieved is evidence of our commitment to that goal,” Thorsby adds, “We are proud of this record and the fact that lead batteries provide essential energy storage to power millions of cars, buses, airplanes, trains and logistic networks as well as backup recovery systems that protect life, investments and data in emergency situations.”
BCI and Essential Energy Everyday say lead batteries’ applications reduce carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles through start-stop battery technology, help power hybrid and electric vehicles and enable smart grid technology that improves the reliability of wind and solar farms.
The closed loop process that ensures lead batteries’ high rate of recycling is recognized by the World Economic Forum and MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics as the world’s most successful example of a circular economy—featuring the design, production, transportation, recycling and recovery of vehicle batteries.
The National Recycling Rate Study was produced by SmithBucklin Statistics Group, Chicago, and was commissioned by BCI. The methodology for calculating the recycling rate considers new battery shipments, battery exports, imports of products containing a battery and imports of scrap lead and used batteries.
To view a video of the lead battery recycling process, click here.
Essential Energy Everyday exists to increase awareness of the importance of lead batteries in people’s daily lives. It is supported by the two global trade associations that represent the lead battery and lead industries: BCI and the International Lead Association, London.