How to Dispose of Used Car Batteries

January 27, 2012

Car Batteries wear out, and while some used car batteries can be repaired or reconditioned, sometimes it's simply time to throw them out. When a car battery life span has come to an end, you cannot simply throw them away, as a 12 volt car battery is loaded with a variety of hazardous chemicals and materials. Because of environmental and safety concerns, there are several specific methods and options that have been created specifically for dealing with used car batteries.

1. Recycle the Battery

Recycling your battery isn't as simple as throwing it in the recycle bin, and because of this it may be a good idea to consider recycling your battery with AAA, using their Great Battery Roundup program. This program is generally held once a year to celebrate Earth Day, with details available through any local AAA office.

2. Exchange the Old Battery

When purchasing a new battery, many retailers will offer a discount if you hand over your used battery at the time of purchase. Not only does this save you money when purchasing a brand new battery, but it also takes all of the trouble of disposing of it off of your hands as well. Depending on the age of your battery, some retailers will recondition and resell your old battery, while others may simply collect them and ship them either back to the manufacturer for disposal, or to a local waste disposal company for proper disposal. In the case of batteries containing lead, most states now have lead battery recycling laws that require you to turn over and exchange your lead battery when you purchase a newer lead-free model. Exide, a well known battery manufacturer, has a website with details about various state recycling laws and regulations, and is a good source of information.

3. Throw the Battery Away

If you simply want to throw your battery away and move on, call your local department of sanitation. Most cities will have special waste disposal locations designed to specifically deal with hazardous materials such as batteries. Depending on the program used in your area, you may either be able to drop it off at one of these locations any time during the business week, or you may have to wait for special collection days, so it is a good idea to call and ask before driving over. It should be noted that while some disposal sites may dispose of your battery for free, it is far more likely that you will be charged a small fee for disposal, making exchange or recycling a far better proposition.

Simply throwing your battery away in the trash is not only an irresponsible act, but also one that can incur substantial penalties and fines. Car batteries contain acids such as sulfuric acid which is highly corrosive, and older batteries may also contain lead which is extremely toxic and known to leech into the water table. Because of this, it is far better for everyone to simply dispose of your old battery safely. It only takes a few moments and may even save you money.

Related Questions and Answers

Is it Illegal to Dispose of Old Car Batteries in the Trash?

Due to the toxic effects on groundwater of improper lead battery disposal, most jurisdictions make it illegal to dispose of old  batteries in the trash. According to the City of New York, a typical auto battery can "contain nearly 18 pounds of lead, a toxic metal, and one gallon of sulfuric acid." State statutes frequently regulate battery disposal. For example, Pennsylvania law states that lead acid car batteries must be delivered to a battery seller, secondary lead smelter, or a collection or recycling facility. Laws vary across jurisdictions. The state of Washington may impose a $1,000 fine for throwing a car battery in the trash.

What is the Best Method of Auto Battery Acid Disposal?

Ideally, the best battery acid disposal method is to recycle the acid still in the battery. For acid removed from the battery, disposing of it through municipal government hazardous waste collection presents the best option. Some counties conduct "household hazardous waste collection" days. For example on a Saturday, when residents can drop off battery acid, used transmission fluid and other automotive products. When transporting, keep the acid in a sealed container. If the battery has cracks or leaks, the California Environmental Protection Agency recommends carrying it in "2 six-millimeter polyethylene plastic bags". If a spent battery has a cap missing, it should be replaced. Transport in an upright position.

Is a Car Gel Battery Safer for the Environment?

A car gel battery is safer for the environment in that it presents less chance of leaking harmful chemicals. Because the gel in a battery exists in a near solid-state form, the leak potential is vastly reduced. You don't need to keep them upright, and this reduces the chance of chemical leaks. Gel cell batteries still have dangerous components, including sulfuric acid and lead, so they require proper disposal or recycling. People need to charge gel cell batteries correctly like other batteries to minimize the risk of gas buildup and case rupture.

Is there a Free Way of Disposing of Car Batteries?

Many free options for disposing of car batteries exist. If you buy a new battery, the retailer often accepts the old battery at no charge or a slight discount. For example, in New York City, when buying a new battery, a $5 surcharge is incurred, but by returning the "dead" battery when you purchase a new one, you avoid the surcharge. States and municipalities offer free disposal. For example in California, during "household hazardous waste collection days", sites will accept 10 or fewer. Sometimes the site will require proof of county residency to use a household hazardous waste receiving area. Check local websites of your state and local government for various free disposal options in your area.

Is there a Limit to Car Batteries for Recycling at One Time?

For car batteries and recycling, a limit usually exists on the number of batteries a consumer can turn in. Storage, transportation and recycling costs make this necessary. Sometimes state law determines the limit. In California, "county and city household hazardous waste collection days will accept 10 or fewer spent lead-acid batteries from homeowners". States with battery recycling laws like Minnesota often publish lists of retailers and other businesses that receive batteries for disposal, and indicate the maximum quantity they take. For disposing of large numbers of batteries, check the Internet and business telephone directories for businesses or state hazardous waste collection agencies. These organizations will likely charge money for the service.