How Are Car Batteries Recycled [Complete Guide]

Are you thinking about recycling old batteries! Then, you will get the complete guide here on how are car batteries recycled!

how are car batteries recycled

Can you deny the horrible blame that greenhouse emissions have on making the atmosphere so miserly? Neither can we. Do you know what is one of the main contributors in this emission?

It is something that has become so linked with our lives that we can’t think of “moving” without it. You guessed it: it is transportation!

Of the total released emissions in the world, 14% is due to transportation emissions. Hence, it is important that we address this globally alarming and look into the heart of the problem, lithium-ion batteries. To study how these can be used to create a better future, it is necessary for you to learn how car batteries are recycled.

What Happens to Used Car Batteries?

In the year 2017, can you guess how many electric vehicles were sold? A staggering 1 million! This may not be such an incredulous number, but what is actually alarming is the amount of waste these cars will produce.

You may or may not be surprised to know, this amounts to 250 thousand tons of waste! Now, something needs to be done to address these used parts, doesn’t it?

old batteries

What happens to these used parts, is that they are either stored or sent to landfills. Not very impressive, is it?

The first has the possibility of being inflammable and destroying the surroundings if you are not careful, while the second has the possibility to contaminate the soil and water of the areas adjacent to the landfill. So, something different must be done.

Before Recycling: Re-Using Batteries

One hope for the environment is that there are people like us who are keen to buy used electric batteries. Even you may be interested in the growing market. Although the growth is uncertain, you can reuse your car batteries to do quite a lot of things. For example, it can be used to charge stations.

What’s more, it can also be used as a charging source in hospitals, factories, residences, etc. that may require a backup charging source. However, things aren’t as simple as relocating the batteries to the spot.

So if you were planning to do any of these, you’ll need professional help. That is because, you need to analyze the applications and the remaining energy conservation, and above all the safety before doing any such thing.

How Are Car Batteries Recycled: The Prospect

If these can’t be re-used, the only purpose left for batteries instead of creating more waste is for you to recycle them. Here’s how it happens:

recycling process of batteries

Breaking Down Plastic

Once these batteries reach the facilities where this kind of recycling is done, the parts making up the battery need to be sorted out. Plastic and materials such as lead, nickel, cobalt, manganese, or copper are separated using different shredding, heating, hydrophobicity, etc. processes.

The plastic is separated entirely to create plastic pellets from which covers and cases can be made in the future, thus helping plastic production. If not processed, imagine how long it would take for these plastics to decay: hundreds of years!

Melting Lead

One of the major materials, lead, is then melted down. This can be used to make new grids while the lead oxide, to make newer batteries. The other materials are likewise used for befitting purposes.

Neutralizing Battery Acid

Now, the last composite element of the battery part, the electrolytes need to be recycled, this is done by either neutralizing it with a base or by converting it to sodium sulfate to make entirely different things. Such as cloth detergent!

Environmental Impact of the Batteries

As much as people like you and me are jumping on the bandwagon of electric vehicles, we are ignoring one major thing and its impact on the environment: the electric batteries.

Although they do not show the emission as regular car batteries do, the emission has occurred already in some distant power plant, and let’s face it, you know it.

If you have ever taken a look at how smartphone batteries operate or how they look, multiply it a couple of 100 times and you have car batteries.

Hundreds and thousands of lithium-ion cells go into making these batteries that the cars use. Do you think these cells are good for the environment?

Extraction of minerals

Some rare minerals are extracted to make these lithium-ion batteries. To make just 1 ton of lithium, 750 tons of high-mineral brine, and 250 tons of spodumene are needed.

Quick maths: a thousand tons of rich, rare minerals for a ton of lithium only. And with the sales of 3 billion batteries each year, you can only imagine how much of these rich minerals are given up.

Water Usage

If you were thinking a thousand tons of rich minerals for a ton of lithium is too bad, here’s an even depressing fact: a ton of lithium also requires nearly 2000 tons of water as well.

And one of the major battery-producing countries, Chile has so many active mines of the rare minerals and it engages so much in lithium production, that often it has to import water for the evaporation process! You would say this is a high environmental cost.

Cobalt Reserve

Battery production requires 14% of the total cobalt reserves of the world, which is also marred by the saddening inclusion of child laborers in these mines.

How Long Do They Last?

Whether given the nickname or aliases of an electric battery, a regular battery, or an old-fashioned car battery, these are supposed to last 15-20 years at a stretch.

You already know that there are many factors that decide how long your car battery will be supportive. But can you turn your head around from the massive emission resulting in these 15-20 years? This makes it essential to recycle the car batteries once you are done spending the years after using it.

Final Words

This is how car batteries are recycled with the tedious process of separating, heating, shredding, melting, and neutralizing their components. While some components make future battery parts, some create things entirely different from battery parts (like detergent!).

Although recycling is a demand of time, you also need to be aware that mishandling the used car batteries can be dangerous. So try to go green, but above all, stay safe while you do so!

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