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Please note: This summary is provided to help you understand the regulations. Consult the references provided for links to the full text of the regulations.

BatteriesBatteries

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This page is concerned with spent batteries, including lead-acid vehicle and railroad signal batteries, as well as other types of industrial batteries that have hazardous characteristics. For links to information on smaller batteries, such as those used in electronic devices, see the TERC topic page on Universal Waste.



Who is covered by the regulations?

Any facility that collects or disposes of batteries. To encourage recycling, many batteries that would otherwise be classified as hazardous wastes can be handled as universal wastes, with somewhat less stringent requirements. Specific regulations can vary from state to state.

What is the purpose of the regulations?

Lead-acid batteries contain a highly toxic metal (lead), and corrosive sulfuric acid. Batteries that stay in the recycling loop are valuable resources that have been successfully recycled for decades. Batteries that find their way into landfills or waste dumps are potentially dangerous, and are significant pollution sources. The regulations are intended to make the batteries easy to recycle, and to discourage improper disposal with fines and other penalties.

Regulations

Universal Waste Rule (40 CFR Part 273). Due to their characteristics, spent lead-acid and certain other batteries (e.g., nickel-cadmium, nickel iron, and carbonaire railroad signal batteries) would be classified as hazardous wastes, but special rules have been developed to make it easier to recycle them. Batteries and several other common waste items (e.g., florescent bulbs containing mercury), have been grouped into a regulatory classification called "universal waste". The federal standards for universal waste describe the rules for handling batteries for recycling. Many states have adopted the federal rules, but some variations exist from one state to another.

If a facility accumulates more than 5000 kg (11,000 lb) of universal waste at any point during a given year, it is required to register as a "large quantity handler of universal wastes (LQHUW)". An LQHUW is required to obtain an EPA registration number and to provide process and contact information. A heavy-duty vehicle battery can weigh 50 - 80 pounds or more, so a facility accumulating several dozen batteries at a time could cross the threshold and become an LQHUW. Facilities accumulating smaller amounts do not have to register, but do have to comply with the rules for small quantity handlers of universal waste (SQHUWs).

Federal hazardous waste management regulations draw a sharp distinction between facilities that are permitted to add items and materials to the waste stream ("generators") and those who take the waste from there (treatment, storage, and disposal facilities, or "TSDFs"). TSDFs are regulated much more strictly than generators. In practice, it was found that under certain circumstances, allowing generators to carry out a few simple processes makes it easier to recycle, or to more conveniently manage, certain kinds of wastes. But it became necessary to spell out in detail what processes would be allowed.

For batteries, the federal standards for universal waste management specify the processes that may be carried out by universal waste handlers (both large and small quantity). In brief (consult 40 CFR 273, or the EPA summary page, for the exact wording):

  • If a battery is leaking, put it in a container that won't leak
  • Universal waste handlers are allowed to:
    • sort and pack intact batteries for shipment
    • discharge the batteries (run down the charge through a suitable load so they won't spark if the terminals are shorted)
    • conversely, recharge them if they are going to be used again
    • extract the intact batteries if they are contained in other products, and disassemble the batteries into smaller intact modules or cells
    • remove the electrolyte

Note that if the electrolyte is removed, the handler is required to determine if it is itself a hazardous waste (since it would no longer be covered under the universal waste regulations), and to manage it accordingly.

Batteries or containers must be marked with one of the following:

  • "Universal Waste -- Battery(ies)"
  • "Waste Battery(ies)"
  • "Used Battery(ies)"

The following table lists resources provided by state environmental agencies and other groups that contain state-specific information on managing spent lead-acid batteries.

State


Alabama

Rules for lead-acid battery recycling in Alabama can be found in the ADEM Admin. Code 335-14-7-.07, pages 7-5 through 7-10.

Alaska

No state-specific regulatory information located. A page with information on battery recyclers in Alaska is maintained by the Alaska Environmental Resources Hub On-line (AERHO)

Arizona

Facilities can register to be approved battery collection sites by completing a Battery Collection/Recycling Facility Authorization Application

Arkansas

Rules for lead-acid battery recycling in Arkansas can be found in Regulation 23 (Hazardous Waste Management), pages 266-3 through 4.

California

California's regulations are summarized in a fact sheet, Management of Spent Lead-Acid Batteries

Colorado

A Compliance Bulletin from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment summarizes the rules for lead-acid and other battery types.

Connecticut

Connecticut battery recycling rules are summarized in a fact sheet from the CT Department of Environmental Protection.

Delaware

Delaware rules are summarized in a publication from DNREC covering waste management practices at salvage yards (Chapter 2, page 20).

Florida

From Florida regulations covering lead-acid batteries: "Lead-acid batteries also may not be disposed of in any waste-to-energy facility. To encourage proper collection and recycling, all persons who sell lead-acid batteries at retail shall accept used lead-acid batteries as trade-ins for new lead-acid batteries." A fee is assessed for batteries purchased without a trade-in.

Georgia

A fact sheet on managing used lead-acid batteries in Georgia is provided by the Georgia Environmental Compliance Assistance Program.

Hawaii

The Hawaii Department of Health provides a fact sheet on Used Lead Acid Battery Management in Hawaii.

Idaho

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality provides a list of recyclers in the state that will accept lead-acid batteries.

Illinois

Owners or operators of facilities that collect or store spent lead-acid batteries can choose to handle the waste according to provisions in section 726.180 of the Illinois Administrative Code (Title 35), or as Universal Wastes under section 733.102.

Indiana

A fact sheet issued by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) on March 15, 2011 provides information on proposed changes to the rules governing temporary storage and management of spent lead acid batteries.

Iowa

Lead-acid batteries are not considered Universal Waste in Iowa, but are managed under their own regulations. A list of sites in Iowa that accept lead-acid batteries for recycling is provided by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Kansas

A list of battery and electronics recyclers in Kansas is provided in a handbook from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (Appendix D, p. 59)

Kentucky

The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection provides a fact sheet summarizing regulatory requirements governing lead-acid battery disposal, with references to the applicable hazardous and universal waste regulations.

Louisiana

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality provides a recycling directory listing companies in Louisiana that accept batteries. They also provide an information pamphlet containing special instructions for acceptable battery management practices in Louisiana.

Maine

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection provides a list of recommended battery handling practices on page 8 of a guidance manual for auto repair shops. They also provide a list of recyclers in Maine.

Maryland

The organization "mdrecycles.com" provides a list of recyclers in Maryland that accept batteries.

Massachusetts

No state-specific regulatory information located. A brief overview of recommended handling practices for batteries may found in a publication on handling toxic and hazardous wastes from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Michigan

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality provides a list of lead acid battery collectors in Michigan

Minnesota

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency provides a list of lead-acid battery recycling outlets and haulers

Mississippi

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality provides a battery FAQ page

Missouri

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources provides information on Missouri requirements for businesses handling used batteries on page 23 of a publication on pollution prevention for vehicle maintenance facilities

Montana

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality provides a web page summarizing how to handle waste batteries under Montana's Universal Waste rules.

Nebraska

The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality provides recommended battery handling practices in a guidance document (Material and Waste Management section).

Nevada

No state-specific regulatory information located.

New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services provides a fact sheet summarizing the rules and recommended practices for handling used batteries in New Hampshire.

New Jersey

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection briefly summarizes New Jersey battery recycling requirements in a section of a handbook on watershed protection.

New Mexico

The New Mexico Environment Department provides a recycling directory including businesses accepting lead-acid batteries in New Mexico.

New York

Owners or operators of facilities that collect or store spent lead-acid batteries can choose to handle the waste according to provisions in Subpart 374-1.7 of the State of New York environmental regulations, or as Universal Wastes under Subpart 374-3.

North Carolina

North Carolina regulations require that retailers accept used batteries for recycling when new batteries are purchased.

North Dakota

No state-specific regulatory information located.

Ohio

Disposal of lead acid batteries in solid or hazardous waste landfills became illegal in Ohio in 2008.

Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality provides a page with general instructions on handling vehicle wastes, including batteries; otherwise no state-specific regulatory information located.

Oregon

No state-specific regulatory information located.

Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection provides an index page summarizing state regulations for lead acid battery recycling.

Rhode Island

Intact, non-leaking lead acid batteries can be handled under Rhode Island's universal waste rules.

South Carolina

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control provides a convenient publication containing the waste management rules for lead acid batteries.

South Dakota

No state-specific regulatory information located. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources provides a list of battery recyclers in the state.

Tennessee

Owners or operators of facilities that collect or store spent lead-acid batteries can choose to handle the waste according to provisions in Chapter 1200-1-11.09 (Health, Environment, and Conservation) of the Tennessee regulations (pp. 3-4), or as Universal Wastes under Chapter 1200-1-11.12.

Texas

Texas lead-acid battery disposal requirements are briefly summarized on page 6 of an environmental guide for Texas automotive repair shops provided by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Utah

Disposal limitations for lead-acid batteries in Utah are found in Title 19, Chapter 6, Section 602 of the Utah Code

Vermont

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation provides a fact sheet with a summary of state rules and a list of recommended best practices.

Virginia

Lead-acid batteries may be handled as universal wastes in Virginia, as indicated in an information page on universal waste management provided by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The VDEQ also provides a copy of the federal standards for universal waste regulation containing the detailed requirements pertaining to batteries (Section 273.2, pp. 460-61)

Washington

An information page from the Washington Department of Ecology provides a summary of the rules, with links to several pages with related information.

West Virginia

West Virginia's lead acid battery rule can be accessed on line through the WV Secretary of State's office.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin battery recycling rules are summarized on an information page provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Wyoming

Owners or operators of facilities that collect or store spent lead-acid batteries can choose to handle the waste according to provisions in Part 266.80 of the Wyoming Code (Chapter 12, pp. 12-3), or as Universal Wastes under Chapter 14.

Streamlined Lead Acid Batteries Standards (40 CFR Part 266, Subpart G). Spent lead-acid batteries being reclaimed may alternatively be managed under 40 CFR 266, Subject G. This rule only applies to spent lead-acid batteries. It does not apply to any other types of batteries that can otherwise be recycled under the Universal Waste Rule. The streamlined lead acid battery standards generally exempt persons who generate, transport, or collect spent lead-acid batteries destined for reclamation from the majority of hazardous waste regulations. Persons who store spent lead-acid batteries before reclaiming them must notify EPA and obtain a RCRA permit for that storage. Lead-acid batteries that are regenerated rather than reclaimed remain exempt from the hazardous waste regulations throughout the management cycle. Most states have adopted by reference the streamlined lead acid battery standards.

Compliance Options

If a vehicle battery is being replaced, the easiest option is to exchange the old battery at the same location where the new one is purchased. Retailers in most areas are required to accept old batteries for recycling. Some retailers will accept them even if the battery is not being replaced. Lists including companies in addition to retailers that will accept batteries for recycling may be found for some locations in the table in the previous section.

Best Practices

Recycling is generally the only sensible option for spent lead-acid batteries. A large fraction -- 96%, according to one recent study -- of the lead in lead-acid batteries is recycled, which probably makes battery lead the most recycled material in commerce today.

The situation will become more complicated over the next few years, as new battery types find wider applications in vehicles. Lead-acid batteries store enough power to start an engine, but do not store enough power per pound to be used as a component of the power train. Lithium-ion batteries, rapidly decreasing in cost as they are incorporated into passenger vehicles, may start finding uses in some freight applications. If so, vehicle maintenance facilities will have to manage spent lithium-ion batteries, at least initially without the benefit of the recycling infrastructure that has been established for lead-acid.

More Resources

EPA page on batteries and battery recycling (all battery types)

Text of the federal universal waste regulation (40 CFR 273)

An informative battery recycling mass flow diagram, and a summary of state battery recycling regulations affecting battery retailers, from Battery Council International

 

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