ILMC logo

The International Lead Management Center


Life Cycle Scenarios of the Lead Acid Battery

It is helpful when considering battery recycling to examine possible life cycle scenarios in order to determine likely sources of information.

For example:

  • A battery manufacturer will sell a battery to a retailer
  • The retailer will sell the battery to the owner of a vehicle
  • When the battery is “spent” the vehicle owner will need a replacement and he could return the used battery to the retailer for recycling and a possible discount on the new battery.
  • In which case the retailer will send the battery to a licensed recycler and the recovered lead will be sold to the manufacturer. The non metal components will also be treated in a environmentally sound manner, some recycled, others neutralized prior to disposal.
  • A battery manufacturer will sell a battery to a retailer
  • The retailer will sell the battery to the owner of a vehicle
  • When the battery is “spent” the vehicle owner will need a replacement and he could return the used battery to the retailer for recycling and a possible discount on the new battery.
  • Download presentation notes in PDF format (810 KB)
  • Download presentation notes in Word format (176 KB)

In which case the retailer will send the battery to a licensed recycler and the recovered lead will be sold to the manufacturer. The non metal components will also be treated in a environmentally sound manner, some recycled, others neutralized prior to disposal.

However, the retailer might not take back used batteries and the vehicle owner may have to take the used battery to suitable used battery collection point.

The battery scrap collector will then send the used batteries to the licensed recycler for recovery of the recyclable materials.

However, depending on the prevailing market conditions there might be a better financial reward for the vehicle owner if the used battery was sold to a battery reconditioner. Sometimes a reconditioner can reclaim a used battery by cannibalizing another and using those components with some “life” left in them. These reconditioned batteries will not have a long life, but often find a ready market amongst the poorest in society.

Those “spent” components that the reconditioner cannot reuse are usually sold to an unlicensed recycler, often referred to as a “backyard” recycler. This secondary lead sector of the industry is called the “informal” sector, although a more appropriate term would be “unregulated” as operating practices will rarely conform to sound environmental and occupational performance standards.

In order to establish an accurate picture of the life of a battery in Central America account must be taken of all of the possible scenarios outlined above.

Nevertheless, the informal secondary lead sector will often supply the battery manufacturers and the licensed recyclers with unrefined lead bullion. Anther outlet for the lead bullion produced by the informal sector is fishing sinkers.

Sometimes the vehicle owner is unable to take a used battery to any recycling collection point and the battery is disposed of in the nearest municipal “dump”. This scenario not only poses serious long term problems for the environment, but is a loss of a valuable resource.

Where municipal authorities have sorting facilities, any used batteries are segregated and either sent to the nearest used battery collection point for shipment to a licensed recycler or directly to the licensed recycler.

In many cases, particularly in the developing world, scavengers scouring rubbish dumps for anything of value will recover the used battery as a saleable recyclable commodity and sell it to a secondary lead plant, usually an unlicensed recycler.



The International Lead Management Center

Basel Convention - Environmentally Sound Management of Spent Lead Acid Batteries in Central America and the Caribbean
Project Launching Workshop
Trinidad
May 3 to May 4, 2001