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We Recycled More Than a Billion Pounds of Batteries—Again

August 2019 | By Youssef Sleiman

Deadlifting a few million dead batteries a year ain't easy. Still, somebody's gotta do it.

Meet the heavyweight champion in heavy metal recycling, Interstate Batteries! We’re pulling our weight to make the automotive aftermarket an even more sustainable industry.

And we want you to get involved.

Remember riding in your great-granddad’s pickup? When he turned the keys, that old engine rambled to life, thanks to a strong lead battery.

Did you know the lead in your great-granddad’s pickup still starts cars today? Maybe even yours?

Lead is ever-reusable, ever-recyclable. That is, if someone collects and carries them to a responsible recycler. For generations, we’ve stepped in to make the world a greener place. For the second time ever, Interstate Batteries recycled more than one billion pounds of scrap lead-acid batteries.Infographic of how many pounds of lead Interstate has recycled

And we’re on the hunt for more.

Thanks to our network of battery distributors throughout North America, plus the centralized recycling team at Interstate Batteries working with industries across the US, we scour rural, urban and industrial markets typical recyclers couldn’t reach. These are the communities where we all live, work and raise families. We’re pulling scrap batteries out of garages, basements and potentially landfills—and moving them into the hands of responsible recyclers.

In the last three years, Interstate recycled 3,085,333,348 pounds of lead: 1.1 billion pounds in 2016, 0.918 billion in 2017 and now 1.1 billion in 2018. According to non-profit trade association Battery Council International (BCI), more than 12 billion pounds of lead were recycled between 2012 and 2016 from car batteries alone.

That makes us one of the largest lead battery recyclers in North America.

“In a way, all roads lead back to Interstate Batteries. We’re reusing that lead, no matter where it came from to make new batteries, whether it be a new Interstate battery or if it goes into other labels,” said Tod A. Lyons, Sustainability Program Manager. “Lead batteries are lead batteries as far as we’re concerned.”

Almost all lead-acid batteries created get recycled. BCI’s latest recycling study estimates 99.3% of lead-acid batteries manufactured also get recycled. Lead processors reclaim the lead, of course, but they also reuse the plastic case and even the battery acid. At 99.3% recycled, that’s more recycling done than aluminum cans, paper or glass.

Now we’re after the remaining 0.7% of unrecycled batteries.


“Everybody’s working together for the same thing, which is to recycle these batteries and keep them out of the environment.”
Tod Lyons, Sustainability Program Manager
Interstate Batteries


More Than 2 Million Batteries Left Unrecycled Each Year

Basements, barns and garages across the continent hold millions more lead batteries that need to be recycled.

BCI estimates more than 2 million batteries are still out there. Perhaps in an abandoned farm truck. Maybe in a farm tractor that died several years ago. Is there one in a corner of your garage?

For Tod, stray dead batteries are more than an environmental issue.

It’s an issue the auto aftermarket must address for their own sake, just as much as for the environment’s sake. As Interstate’s sustainability manager, Tod analyzes industry trends as he supports Interstate Batteries. He often reminds audiences at industry trade shows and national conferences that lead-acid batteries are a sustainable product – and have been for generations.

“When you think about it, the same battery that was in your grandfather’s pickup truck back in the 50s, that lead could possibly be in batteries today. The same lead gets used over and over,” he said. “Lead mines generally across North America have been closed. There’s very little lead actually mined out of the ground anymore.”

Recycled lead batteries are the primary raw material to create new batteries.

Not just our batteries. All lead-acid batteries.

Batteries on cars, boats and RVs.  On US military bases. Batteries supporting telecommunications company cellphone towers. Rows and rows at backup power stations across the US and Canada. Batteries in the basements of server farms and hotels. All made from recycled lead.

Effectively, the battery manufacturing, distribution and recycling industry is a circular economy. It’s a closed loop using the same material, the same element on the periodic table, over and over for more than 70 years.

And Interstate Batteries is one of the major players keeping this economy turning.


“The same battery that was in your grandfather’s pickup truck back in the 50s, that lead could possibly be in batteries today.”
Tod Lyons, Sustainability Program Manager
Interstate Batteries


In fact, in recycling circles, our green is more than our color. It’s a beacon.

Our green is a signal to partners in any industry industries that their lead-acid batteries can be safely and responsibly recycled.Tod Lyons, Sustainability Program Manager Interstate Batteries

We collect dead batteries from local auto repair shops. We also collect them from major telecom companies, recycling used batteries from cellphone towers. We collect them from data centers, server farms, the rail industry, backup power stations and military contractors. Our distributors work with military bases from every branch, all to collect the lead-acid batteries once they’ve retired. And three of the largest environmental companies in the US – Clean Harbors, Stericycle and Veolia – recycle their lead-acid batteries with Interstate Batteries Recycling.

“Everybody’s working together for the same thing, which is to recycle these batteries and keep them out of the environment,” Tod said. “Whether it be automotive or telecommunications or data centers or marine, we’re working with all different industries.”

Car enthusiasts and garage tinkerers like you can get involved.

Plus, there’s money in it for you, too.

We Want You—and Your Dead Batteries

Lead-acid batteries are one of America’s recycling success stories. More than 99% of lead-acid batteries created are recycled, every single part of a car battery can be recycled, and government regulations on lead processing tighten every year to reduce emissions during the actual recycling process. On top of that, Interstate Batteries team members uphold our Green Standard practices to properly handle and safely transport these batteries.

Lead is also a commodity, a valuable metal publicly traded on the London Metals Exchange.

That’s right. The dead battery sitting in your abandoned tractor has monetary value.

How much varies, based on the fluctuating markets – plus a host of variables. Scrap lead prices can change every day. Plus, the more lead you bring in, the more value you could get.

It’s not just about how much a dead battery is worth. Whether you’ve got a leftover car battery in your basement or you have to manage whole pallets of dead batteries for a business, you want to be sure you work with a responsible recycler that handles them according to federal regulations, and moves them directly to government-registered lead processors. That’s how you can be sure to keep batteries out of the environment.

Interstate Batteries will buy scrap your lead-acid batteries, either by the individual unit or by the pound.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be a car battery.

“It doesn’t matter if it comes from a car battery or a backup UPS [uninterruptible power supply] battery,” Tod said. “Lead batteries are sustainable for the long-term, and we’re proving that by how much we’re recycling.”

Then, your contribution will be a part of the next billion pounds of lead Interstate Batteries keeps out of the environment. Together, we can pull our weight for a greener tomorrow.


“Lead batteries are sustainable for the long-term, and we're proving that by how much we're recycling.”

Tod Lyons, Sustainability Program Manager

Interstate Batteries


Learn more about our lead-acid battery recycling program. Watch now.


Infographic of how many pounds of lead Interstate has recycled
 

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