Battery Recycling - What Happens?

If your car battery is nearly new, you may want to take it out of your ELV so that you can use it in another car or sell it. That’s usually not a problem, as long as you let the buyer know that there is no battery when you provide the details about your car. The battery has a scrap value, so the price we offer will be around £10 less if the car has no battery.

If you are happy to leave the battery in the ELV, you will get a better price. If you have done your research and have chosen a reputable company, such as Remove My Car, to buy your ELV, the car battery will be recycled. This helps to reduce waste and the impact on landfill sites and also helps to prevent the hazardous substances in car batteries from contaminating the environment.



Why Car Batteries Need to be Recycled

Car batteries contain materials that can be hazardous to the environment and our health. By recycling them at authorised centres, we can help prevent their harmful materials from polluting the soil and water supplies (and the air, during the recycling process). 

Most car batteries are lead-acid batteries, which contain around 11kg of lead and 5-6kg of diluted sulphuric acid, and 2-3kg of various alloying components.[2]. As lead and sulphuric acid are both hazardous materials, this means around 90% of a car battery is potentially harmful. 

If your car battery is not recycled properly, its lead and acid can leak and pollute the soil and enter the water supply. The toxic lead can then be ingested by humans and animals and cause a variety of health problems affecting the “brain and nervous system, kidneys, blood, and the reproductive systems of both sexes” [1]. Children, including unborn babies, are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, even in small amounts, as are animals.

Of course, there is also the issue of waste and cost. By recycling car batteries, manufacturers can reduce the demand for raw and manufactured materials and the energy required to process them. They can also reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfill sites. Similar to Tyre Recycling



How Your Car Battery is Recycled

When you sell your ELV (with battery) to Remove My Car, the battery is removed as part of the depollution process at an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF). From there, the battery is sent to one of the UK’s specialist battery recycling centres. 


The machinery used for recycling car batteries is large and expensive, which is why there are a limited number of centres available. The exact process that each recycling centre uses can vary, depending on what equipment they have and their business strategy, but it is likely to follow these steps:

Your car battery is added to a group of other lead-acid batteries and then they are all fed into a breaking machine. Rotating hammers in the machine smash the batteries into pieces. This breaks the battery down into five components: plastic (from the casing), lead grids, lead oxide (a lead paste), acid and a sulphur paste.


The plastic casing and parts are separated from the lead, lead oxide and acid and are fed into a plastic recycling facility. There, the plastic is cleaned and turned into pellets. The pellets are sold as a recycled material which can be used to create new car battery cases and other plastic goods.


The lead paste, acid and lead grids are screened and treated. They separate from each other. After the treatment, only a small amount of the acid remains and this can be collected and treated so that it can be reused. For example, some recycling centres are able to turn the acid waste into gypsum, which can be used in the construction industry. However, not all recycling centres do this.

The lead paste and lead grids are both placed in an industrial furnace. There, they are heated until they are molten (liquid form). They are now unrefined lead.


The unrefined lead is fed into a refinery where it is stored in ‘kettles’ or ‘pots’.


The unrefined lead is treated with various agents to remove any impurities. As part of this process, a small amount of lighter metals (such as calcium tin and calcium copper alloys) come out of the unrefined lead. These lighter metals are a waste product known as ‘slag’ and they go into landfill.


The purified lead is poured into moulds. The purified lead can be allowed to cool as a pure, soft lead or other elements can be added to it to create a lead alloy. When the lead or lead alloy has cooled and hardened, it is packaged and transported, ready for sale as reusable materials.


The sulphur paste is also a waste product that may be stored and sent to landfill. However, some recycling centres are able to treat the sulphur paste so that it can be reused. 

Using this process, around 90-95% of the materials in dead batteries are recycled and then used to make new products (including new car batteries). There’s something quite satisfying about that, isn’t there? And work continues on developing the technology to achieve even better results, reduce costs, and deal with recycled materials in new ways. 

“From an Industry perspective, lead-acid batteries are an environmental success story because in the United States just over 96% is recovered and in most of the G7 nations upwards of 95% is recycled.”

However, some developing countries do not have the means to use these proven techniques and processes. This is why, globally, car battery recycling is a major cause of environmental concern.



[2] Information provided by Dr SP Binks, the Regulatory Affairs Director at the International Lead Association.

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