Batteries are a common household item that many consumers may not think twice about recycling. The material used in making batteries from AAA to car batteries is different, and batteries can be re-used as a secondary raw material. Nickel-metal-hydride, lithium, and lead-acid batteries that are disposed of in landfills can release toxins into the environment over time, but recycling helps prevent the release of toxins, and recycled batteries can be used to manufacture other materials.
During the recycling process of lead-acid batteries, the lead can actually be separated from other materials in the makeup of the battery prior to the metallurgical processing and then be used in the making of more batteries, battery cases and battery plates. The automotive industry is active in recycling car batteries. According to the Battery University website, in the United States, "98% of all lead-acid batteries are recycled," whereas "only one in six households in North America recycle batteries." The plastic coating around batteries can also be recycled to make into clothing, shoes, bottles, containers and more.
Instead of throwing nickel-cadmium batteries away, recycle the batteries, where they can be reprocessed through a thermal technique. This process enables cadmium and iron-nickel to separate, where the two can be used for steel production for use in cars, homes, businesses and more. According to Allied Waste Industries, enough steel is thrown away each year to build all the cars in America. Even though some batteries may seem tiny, simply recycling them can produce more steel to build automobiles and buildings, appliances, highway equipment and many other products.
For the most part, batteries made with nickel-metal-hydride are environmentally friendly because the main derivative, nickel, is considered semi-toxic. Recycling these batteries and mechanically separating the materials allows nickel to be re-used for the manufacturing of stainless steel from electrical wiring and piping to countertops and appliances like microwaves, refrigerators, dishwashers and stoves.