Sunday, May 30, 2010

Battery Recycling.....An American Environmental Success Story

Lead-acid batteries are the environmental success story of our time. Roughly 96 percent of all battery lead is recycled. Compared to newspapers, aluminum cans and glass bottles, lead-acid batteries top the list of the most highly recycled consumer product.

The lead-acid battery gains its environmental edge from its closed-loop life cycle. The typical new lead-acid battery contains 60 to 80 percent recycled lead and plastic. When a spent battery is collected, it is sent to a permitted recycler where, under strict environmental regulations, the lead and plastic are reclaimed and sent to a new battery manufacturer. The recycling cycle goes on indefinitely. That means the lead and plastic in the lead-acid battery in your car, truck, boat or motorcycle have been - and will continue to be -- recycled many, many times.

Recycling Chart
Shows recycling data for newspapers, glass bottles and aluminum cans as compared to lead-acid batteries.

Recycling diagram
Recycling a spent lead-acid battery involves five basic steps:

The battery is broken apart in a hammermill, a machine that hammers the battery into pieces.

The broken battery pieces go into a vat, where the lead and heavy materials fall to the bottom, the plastic floats. At this point, the polypropylene pieces are scooped away, and the liquids are drawn off, leaving the lead and heavy metals. Each of the materials goes into a different "stream." We'll begin with the plastic, or polypropylene.

The polypropylene pieces are washed, blown dry and sent to a plastic recycler, where the pieces are melted together into an almost-liquid state. The molten plastic is put through an extruder that produces small plastic pellets of a uniform size. Those pellets are sold to the manufacturer of battery cases, and the process begins again.

The lead grids, lead oxide and other lead parts are cleaned and then melted together in smelting furnaces.

The molten lead is poured into ingot molds. Large ingots, weighing about 2,000 pounds are called hogs. Smaller ingots, weighing 65 pounds, are called pigs. After a few minutes, the impurities, otherwise known as dross, float to the top of the still-molten lead in the ingot molds. The dross is scraped away and the ingots are left to cool.

When the ingots are cool, they are removed from the molds and sent to battery manufacturers, where they are re-melted and used in the production of new lead plates and other parts for new batteries.

Sulfuric Acid
Old battery acid can be handled in two ways.

The acid is neutralized with an industrial compound similar to household baking soda. This turns the acid into water. The water is treated, cleaned and tested to be sure it meets clean water standards. Then it is released into the public sewer system.

Another way to treat acid is to process it and convert it to sodium sulfate, an odorless white powder that's used in laundry detergent, glass and textile manufacturing. This takes a material that would be discarded and turns it into a useful product.

Much of the information and graphics used in this article were generously provided by Battery Council International (BCI) a not-for-profit organization. BCI establishes technical standards for battery manufacturing and actively promotes workable environmental, health, and safety standards for the industry as a whole. BCI actively promotes the recycling of spent lead-acid batteries and the use of recycled materials in the production of new batteries.

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1 comment:

  1. wooouww. . This is an article very useful and handy once, I really like what you post and give, thank you for sharing with us


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