Blog Car Care Advice Car Battery Disposal 101: Why & How to Do it Safely
Car Care Advice

Car Battery Disposal 101: Why & How to Do it Safely

Looking for a mechanic near you for maintenance or repair? AutoNation Mobile Service brings the shop to you. Get a free instant quote today.
Get a Quote

Is your old car battery giving you trouble
Your engine may be slow to start or showing signs of failure.

But before you toss it in with the household trash, there’s something you need to know: improper disposal of car batteries can be hazardous

We’ll delve into the importance of proper car battery disposal, share tips on safely removing and storing your battery, and point you to the best places for recycling or safe disposal. 

Let’s begin! 

This Article Contains: 

Why Is Proper Car Battery Disposal Important?

A typical car battery is made from lead and sulfuric acid. Lead is a toxic metal, while sulfuric acid is a corrosive substance that causes critical damage.

If your car battery ends up in a landfill, its components could contaminate the soil and cause other environmental and health issues. Some US states (e.g., California) even have strict laws that require all batteries to be recycled. 

But here’s the good part: Almost 99% of the lead acid battery materials are recyclable. 

So, proper disposal of your car battery can help reduce waste and create a safe environment for you and everyone else.

However, before you correctly dispose of an old battery, you must safely remove it from your vehicle.

How to Safely Remove Your Dead Battery

If your battery is past its prime, here’s how you can remove it from your car: 

  1. Wear personal protective equipment to avoid coming in contact with battery acid.
  2. Disconnect the cable from your battery’s negative terminal.
  3. Next, remove the cable from the positive terminal of the battery.
  4. Remove the clip, strap, or any safety feature holding the battery in place.
  5. Finally, inspect your battery to ensure it’s free from marks, dents, or leaks.

Note: If you’re not confident doing it yourself, seek professional assistance

But before you head to the auto parts store for a new car battery, you should store the old one safely.

How to Safely Store Your Car Battery

When you’re done removing your old car battery, store it inside two plastic bags or use a heavy-duty material like a closed plastic crate. Store the battery in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area to avoid exposure to harmful acid fumes. Also, always keep the battery upright and never store or transport it on its side.

Some types of batteries have vent caps that can leak sulfuric acid if not correctly stored upright. 

Safety tip: If you accidentally get battery acid on your clothing, use a solution of water and baking soda to neutralize it quickly.

That said, consider removing them from your property as soon as possible. And if the lead acid battery is leaking, you’ll need to take it to a battery recycling location quickly.

Now that you know how to remove and store your car battery, let’s explore the best options to dispose of or recycle it.

Best Places to Recycle or Safely Dispose of Batteries

Here’s a list of some facilities and websites that can help you with recycling vehicle batteries and hazardous waste:

1. Battery Recycling Facility

These facilities are equipped to handle the processing and recycling of various types of batteries. 

A. Call2Recycle

It’s a nonprofit organization that offers electronic waste recycling and disposal of batteries and electronic waste (e-waste). They operate an extensive car battery recycling program, providing convenient drop-off locations for consumers to recycle their used batteries free of charge.

B. Waste Management Inc.

This battery recycling facility offers drop-off locations for lead-acid batteries, household batteries like AAA, and consumer electronics. 

C. Redwood Materials

The company helps recycle end-of-life batteries from electric vehicles (EVs), consumer electronics, and other sources. Redwood Materials is present in 70+ locations across the US.

D. Original Battery Manufacturer 

Another way to dispose of dead car batteries is to take them straight to the nearest battery manufacturer or dealership. The battery retailer might also have a ZIP code-based finder for places where you can drop off your old car battery.

Important: You should inform the chosen agency beforehand about any damaged batteries. They have different protocols for managing and shipping damaged batteries. 

2. Website Directories for Recycling

Here are some websites that can help you find local car battery recycling centers:

A. RecycleNation

This directory helps you find electronic waste recycling centers where you can dispose of hazardous waste. It’ll also help you find spots to recycle different vehicle battery types, dry-cell batteries, alkaline batteries, and other single-use batteries, such as lithium batteries.

B. Earth911

Earth911 helps you find the nearest recycling center where you can recycle batteries and discard household hazardous waste. You’ll find places to dispose of your rechargeable and recyclable batteries with the universal recycling symbol.

C. StopWaste

This site will help you find local recycling centers for disposing of household hazardous waste, car batteries, alkaline batteries, and single-use lithium batteries.

Wondering how these agencies recycle the batteries?
Let’s find out next.

How Are Car Batteries Recycled?

Here’s a breakdown of the battery recycling process: 

  1. Used lead batteries are collected from drop-off sites and taken to a recycling plant.
  2. They drain any remaining electrolyte (acid) from the battery into a containment area,  where it’s safely neutralized and treated.
  3. Next, the recyclers separate lead from the battery’s plastic case (polypropylene) and melt it down inside a furnace.
  4. Next, they wash and recycle polypropylene.
  5. The battery recyclers then treat and neutralize sulfuric acid.
  6. Finally, the recycling plant makes new automotive batteries using all the recycled material.

Now that you know the basics of car battery disposal and recycling, let’s address any additional queries.

6 FAQs about Car Battery Disposal

Here are answers to some common car battery disposal questions:

1. Will I Get Paid for an Old Automotive Battery?

Some automotive recycling centers and scrap metal yards pay you to hand over an old battery, but it depends on several factors.

Some automotive shops and battery retailers may also offer you a store credit or discount on a new battery in exchange for the old one. You may also be eligible for a core charge refund, if applicable.

2. What Is a Core Charge? 

A core charge, also known as a core deposit or core fee, is a refundable deposit added to the purchase price of your batteries, alternators, etc. This charge is essentially a form of incentive for you to return the old, used part to the retailer or manufacturer for automotive recycling or remanufacturing.

Once you return the old part to the retailer or manufacturer, typically within a specified time frame, you are eligible to receive a refund of the core charge. 

3. How Do I Know it’s Time to Replace My Car Battery?

These warning signs can suggest that your car battery needs replacement

4. Why Should I Not Throw My Battery in the Trash Can?

Improper disposal of batteries poses a serious risk to the environment and your health. That’s because batteries contain hazardous material and toxic waste that can end up in landfills and leach into soil and groundwater.

5. Why Should I Recycle My Car Battery?

Even if the batteries reach the end of their lifespan, almost all the toxic materials of a lead acid battery are recyclable. So, recycling batteries reduces the need to use new raw materials. 

Here are two other reasons for recycling batteries:

A. Reduces the Burden on Landfills

Discarding various battery types, like car lead batteries, button batteries, 9-volt batteries, and other single-use batteries, creates hazardous waste. If you recycle them instead of dumping them in landfills, you can significantly reduce the amount of hazardous material waste lying around.  

B. Saves Energy

The recycling process is often more energy-efficient than mining for new valuable metals to create vehicle batteries from scratch.

6. How Are EV Batteries Recycled?

The lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack of an electric vehicle (EV) contains critical materials like cobalt, manganese, nickel, and lithium. As electric vehicles from Tesla and other manufacturers gain popularity, EV battery recycling and reuse are becoming increasingly important.

Let’s explore the current processes deployed for recycling electric vehicle batteries.

A. Pyrometallurgy

This EV battery recycling technique involves burning a lithium-ion battery at high temperatures to remove unwanted components. It leaves only a fraction of the original battery pack – usually the copper from the current collector and the nickel or cobalt from the cathode. 

However, this process loses a lot of aluminum and lithium from the spent battery. It also produces toxic fumes and tonnes of solid waste byproducts.

B. Hydrometallurgy (Chemical Leaching)

This battery recycling process involves soaking (leaching) the lithium-ion batteries of electric vehicles in strong acids to dissolve the metals. The battery recyclers can recover more recycled material, including lithium, using this process. The main advantage of leaching is that it emits little toxic air emissions.

However, electronics recycling through leaching can be expensive and complex. When producing lithium-ion batteries, it’s often cheaper to mine new car battery material than recover it with leaching. 

7. Can Electric Car Batteries Be Repurposed?

EV batteries with less than 70-75% of their original capacity are considered to have reached their end life. However,  you can still use this rechargeable battery for other household purposes.

Here are some alternate uses: 

Dispose of Car Batteries Carefully to Keep the Environment Clean

If you don’t dispose of your old battery properly, it could pose serious health and environmental risks. When your vehicle battery is past its prime, quickly take it to a recycling center and get a new battery from an auto parts store.

And if you’re unsure how to remove your vehicle battery or suspect it might be dangerous to do so, contact AutoNation Mobile Service.

We’re a mobile auto repair and maintenance service. All repairs have a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty, and you can easily book your appointments online. 
Contact us today, and our expert technicians will bring the repair shop to you!