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Lead batteries are one of the biggest recycling success stories of our lifetime. When we think of highly recyclable products, items like glass, plastic and newspaper usually come to mind. However, the battery chemistry that starts your car, stores power to enhance renewable energy utilization, backs up critical data centers, and keeps the warehouse industry moving has one of the highest recycling rates in the world.
Meeting the growing U.S. energy demand requires efficient energy storage technologies. Today's lead batteries provide the answer, 24/7. They are the proven energy storage leader for vital industries, such as transportation, energy and communications. Compared to other storage options, lead batteries are more affordable and sustainable. According to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2014 Fact Sheet, 99% of all lead batteries are recycled, making them the most recycled good in the U.S.
The life cycle of a lead battery follows a closed loop, and the average new lead battery is made with 60-80% recycled lead and plastic. When a spent battery is collected and returned to a permitted recycling facility, its lead and plastic are reclaimed and used to create a new battery. During the recycling process, a battery is separated into three distinct components. The lead is smelted and refined for use in new batteries. The plastic case is recovered, cleaned and molded into new battery cases. The used acid is recycled for reuse in battery products as well as the glass industry.
In addition, technological advances in lead batteries continue to increase their life cycle, storage capacity and overall performance to meet our future energy needs in key sectors.
In transportation, a billion vehicles worldwide use lead batteries to start their engines and power on-board electronics. All fuel-efficient hybrid and fully electric vehicles also require advanced lead batteries in conjunction with other battery technologies. Collectively, the new generation of start-stop vehicles that use an advanced lead battery can provide significant fuel savings.
Within the energy sector, lead batteries store renewable energy generated by cleaner, greener sources like wind and solar. These industrial lead batteries are the world’s most scalable, economic way to load the grid and reliably supply emergency back-up power during outages. This ensures critical medical, data and security services continue to operate.
Many of our communication systems, like cell phone and internet services, would be severely affected without lead batteries. They safeguard most of the world’s fixed and mobile phone networks and IT infrastructure, delivering around-the-clock emergency power.
Put simply, the dynamic benefits and sustainability of lead batteries make them the smart choice for solving the energy storage needs of today and the emerging technology needs of tomorrow.
Keeping Lead Out of the Environment
More than 80% of lead produced in the U.S. is used in lead batteries. Lead battery safety efforts by the battery industry have led to the adoption of battery recycling laws in 38 states while five others have disposal bans. The lead battery industry works hard to ensure their product is handled safely and responsibly from the beginning of its service life, through distribution, collection of old product, recycling and reclamation, and back to another service life.
The battery industry is regulated by local, state and federal agencies, which inspect manufacturing and recycling plants to verify that companies are meeting standards.
When taken together, all of these practices add up to a very responsible effort on the part of lead battery manufacturers and recyclers to keep even small amounts of lead out of the environment.
Commitment to Workers’ Protection
In June 2017, BCI, EUROBAT and ILA announced an update to their voluntary blood lead mitigation programs for employees of all their member companies, representing 90% of lead-based battery production in North American and EMEA. Read the full release here.