Lead-acid batteries are the most recycled domestic commodity in the U.S.
For the past 60 years, the lead-acid battery industry has been in the forefront of our nation's recycling effort. Delco Battery has taken a leadership role in designing a product that is over 99% recyclable, while also developing a complete system to guarantee that virtually all batteries returned are completely recycled.
The battery industry's "cradle-to-grave" approach to the design, use and recycling of batteries is a model for other industries to follow. Our proven lead-acid battery recycling infrastructure--one that is environmentally safe--is regulated and enforced cooperatively between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Transportation, state regulatory agencies and industry. And battery recycling facilities are regulated by federal environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
The results--a National Recycling Rate Study commissioned by Battery Council International (BCI) and conducted by Smith, Bucklin and Associates Inc.--reveal that lead-acid batteries are being recycled at a rate of more than 94.4%. That impressive rate is higher than that of any domestic commodity, including plastic, glass and aluminum. The goal is to recycle all lead-acid batteries.
How does the recycling process work?
Battery users return their used "junk" lead-acid batteries to the point of sale--retail store, service station, etc.--or to a highly regulated and monitored drop-off site. Fleets of trucks owned and/or operated by lead-acid battery manufacturers or secondary smelters transport "junk" batteries to secondary lead smelters. There the lead plates of a battery are melted and refined and the plastic is separated and sent to a reprocessor. Purified lead is delivered to battery manufacturers and other lead-use industries. The acid is collected and either recycled or neutralized.
Less than 20% of the lead used to make lead-acid batteries today is virgin lead. A Delco Freedom Maintenance-Free Battery rolling off the line of any one of our five domestic plants, or our five international plants, is 99% recyclable and is composed of 61% previously recycled materials.
In fact, not only are we at Delco Battery recycling our products, we are recycling our by-products.
While our battery plants have always removed lead from waste water, the lead was not recyclable due to other parameters of the water. In 1990, Delco Battery put into place aggressive programs to recover and recycle lead from our operations. Working with a chemical vendor, a process was developed and installed in our Muncie, IN, battery plant that resulted in a recyclable by-product that was 40% lead.
As a result of this Delco Battery effort, approximately 24,000 lbs. of lead are captured for reuse each year at the Muncie battery plant. Similar control systems, using clarifiers rather than holding tanks, have since been installed at Delco Battery plants in Anaheim, CA; Fitzgerald, GA; New Brunswick, NJ; and Olathe, KS. A total of approximately 125,000 lbs. of lead are reclaimed and recycled each year from the waste water of Delco Battery plants.
Delco Bettery, in conjunction with BCI, endorses federal and state regulation that would:
* Ban the disposal of lead-acid batteries in municipal landfills and incinerators.
* Require all battery retailers to accept used batteries in exchange for new ones, and educate consumers of this service through point-of-sale signs.
* Require all battery manufacturers or distributors to accept collected used batteries from retailers.
* Require a substantial deposit payment by any purchaser of a new vehicle or marine battery who does not return a used `junk" battery.
Lead-acid batteries are the basic power source of some of the most fundamental products in our society. They are also the foundation upon which much of our high technology is able to function. From telecommunications to hospitals to schools and vehicles, lead-acid batteries have been part of our lives for nearly a century, and they promise to power our lifestyles into the next century--cleanly, safely, dependably and responsibly.