When and How to Safely and Properly Recycle Your Fleet’s Lead Acid Battery

By Vicki Hall, Director, Transportation Technical Solutions at EnerSys, ODYSSEY Battery at EnerSys

When it’s time to retire the lead acid battery in your commercial fleet vehicle, you’re likely to be focused on replacement with a new battery. Recycling the old lead acid battery is vitally important and should be considered an essential part of the process.

Batteries contain heavy metals and other chemicals that are potentially hazardous if they enter the waste stream. Therefore, lead acid batteries must not be mixed in with ordinary municipal waste. The good news is that lead acid batteries can be recycled. The process involves grinding, neutralizing the acid and separating the casing polymers from the lead, producing useful reclaimed materials. The EPA and BCI (Battery Council International) estimate that 99% of lead acid batteries are currently being recycled properly. Details in regard to the recycling rate, as well as other helpful information about batteries, is readily available on the BCI website—an excellent resource.

The following recommendations will help you safely and properly recycle your spent lead acid batteries.


If a battery is failing, becomes frozen or there are obvious signs of physical damage—cracks in the casing, leaks, etc.—it’s time to replace the battery. A prudent practice is simply to replace a battery after the warranty has expired. Remember that recycling is an important part of the process, and proper recycling should occur as soon as possible afterward the old battery has been replaced.


Know and comply with all local and federal laws governing the recycling of batteries. State regulatory requirements and transportation requirements may be found by going to www.batterycouncil.org and looking under the Government Affairs sections for details.


Follow all safety procedures for removal of the old battery, including protective clothing and safety goggles. Always be sure to follow the battery manufacturer’s guidelines for battery care and handling, please read product warning labels for proper handling of the battery, and direct any questions to your battery professional.


While it is best to properly recycle an old battery as soon as possible, in some instances it may be necessary to store it until it can be recycled. While there is little or no risk of an AGM or GEL lead acid battery leaking if the case is cracked, flooded batteries can leak. For protection, use a heavy-duty plastic bag or double lighter weight plastic bags to wrap flooded lead acid batteries for transport or disposal. Avoid any type of metal storage container. Keep the battery in an upright position and never store or transport a battery on its side. Keep the battery in a cool, dry area out of direct heat and sunlight.


In most states, battery retailers are required to accept the old lead acid battery for recycling when selling a new battery. Typically, a core charge is a form of deposit that is paid in the purchase a new battery and is refunded to you when the battery is returned to the store. The fee is intended to promote recycling. However, there are numerous authorized recycling centers where old batteries may be dropped off, as well as services that will pick up and transport discarded batteries to recycling facilities. Search online or in your phone directory for one near you.

When it comes to lead acid batteries, recycling is always the way to go. Make it a permanent part of your battery replacement process. Safe and proper recycling  will help ensure you’re doing right by people and the planet.

Learn more about how ODYSSEY® batteries deliver greater reliability and value: Technicians may refer to the ODYSSEY® Battery Technical Manual as a good source of information about how ODYSSEY® batteries work. A copy may be downloaded here.

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