Lead vehicle batteries have the highest recycling rate of any product in the USA.
Part 1: The Top 3 Reasons Why Car Batteries Have the Highest Recycling Rate
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead automobile batteries are the most recycled product in the USA, with a recycling rate of approximately 99%.
This fact is surprising to most people, but the reasons for this high recycling rate are actually very straightforward. Although battery recycling is far removed from the industries that rely on grinding equipment, such as wood waste recycling, battery recycling can offer valuable insights for those markets.
Reason # 1: Ratio of New Products to Old Products
Used batteries have a direct 1-to-1 relation with new batteries: when an old battery is removed, a new battery is immediately installed, usually at the same location. Automobile owners rarely keep spare batteries on hand in case a battery fails. Likewise an old battery rarely has a chance to sit on a shelf. So the demand for new products almost exactly corresponds to the supply of old batteries.
Reason # 2: Closed Loop Life Cycle with Minimized Transport Costs
Batteries are collected for recycling in the same place that they are sold. This type of closed loop is rare for other products. The consumer has no hassle or additional costs of transporting the used battery.
Reason # 3: Consistent Demand and Market Value
The demand for lead remains fairly consistent and is largely unaffected by external factors. If the economy is slumping, for example, consumers may buy fewer new cars, but the need for batteries remains fairly consistent.
The value of lead may go up and down like other commodities, but it is not likely to completely crash.
This high recycling rate is certainly impressive in comparison to other recycling endeavors, but battery recycling is not met with unequivocal praise from environmentalists or economists. We will explore why in part two of this article.
The downside of battery recycling offers useful insights into the recycling markets we serve as a manufacturer of industrial grinding equipment, as we will see in part two of this series on battery recycling.
There is a degree of discrepancy between the statistics available for battery recycling, even in the EPA’s own citations of the recycling rates. The recycling rate is generally listed at 95% – 99%. Even at the low end, lead battery recycling percentage is higher than the recycling rate for any product made from multiple materials.