Auto Body Shops Pollution Prevention Guide

#13 - Used Batteries

There are two types of batteries commonly found in auto body shops: wet cell and dry cell. Wet-cell (commonly referred to as lead acid) batteries, used in automobile engines, are primarily composed of sulfuric acid and lead. Dry-cell (alkaline, mercuric-oxide, zinc-air) batteries are used to power radios, watches, and cellular phones.

To manage used batteries in a sound and environmental manner:

  • Store them in such a way as to prevent leaks and spills
  • Reuse or recycle them when possible
  • Dispose of them appropriately

Special Note:
Dry cell batteries that are destined for recycling and not disposal are called a universal waste (refer to #3 - Defining a Waste). If you have questions contact your state regulatory agency.

Battery Storage

  • Store wet-cell batteries upright in a secured, covered location designed to contain leaks and temperature extremes.
  • Do not stack wet-cell batteries -- they may crack.
  • Reduce your liability by getting wet-cell batteries off your site as soon as possible.
  • Store dry cell batteries in containers designed to contain leaks.

Battery Reuse And Recycling

If the used wet-cell battery casing is intact, the best management option is to recondition it for reuse. Reconditioning used batteries generally involves the replacement of both the electrolyte solution and water.

The next best option is to recycle your used wet-cell batteries. Used wet-cell batteries can be recycled by taking them back to your battery dealer/distributor (if they accept them), a licensed/permitted secondary lead smelter, or your local recycling center

Certain dry cell batteries, such as those from cellular phones and hearing aids, may be recycled through your local distributor.

Disposal Options

Used wet cell batteries that will not be recycled must be disposed of as a hazardous waste. Refer to #3 - Defining A Waste for more information on hazardous waste disposal.

Used dry cell batteries that are destined for disposal and are not considered a hazardous waste can typically be disposed of in a licensed municipal solid waste management landfill with the permission of your local solid waste authority.

The following series of questions will help you develop ways of preventing pollution in used battery management:

Used Batteries YES NO
1) Do you use rechargeable dry-cell batteries? Using rechargeable dry cell batteries is more desirable than using disposable batteries. You can reduce the amount and cost of waste to be landfilled or taken to a hazardous waste disposal facility by purchasing rechargeable batteries or solar powered devices.    
2) Do you reuse or recycle used wet-cell batteries? Municipal solid waste landfills are starting to refuse wet cell batteries due to more stringent regulations. Therefore, it is more economical and feasible to reuse or recycle the batteries through your local recycler or battery dealer.    
3) Do you store used batteries on-site? If you store used batteries on-site, do so with care. Store used wet cell batteries upright in a secure, covered location designed to contain spills or leaks. Keep them away from temperature extremes that could crack their casings.    
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