Lead Battery Industry Celebrates Earth Day With its Circular Economy

By April 29, 2019General

As Earth Day celebrations come to a close, we reflect on the growing realization that recycling alone is not the end goal. There’s a shift in the manufacturing sector away from a linear economic model of take-make-use-dispose, to a circular one of make-use-recycle-remanufacture.

In a circular economy, the value of products and materials are maintained for as long as possible, and waste and resource use are minimized. In the lead battery industry, when a battery has reached the end of its first life, its materials are kept within the economy to be used again and again to create further value.  

Others can look to the lead battery industry for a map forward. Lead battery manufacturers and recyclers are among the 16 percent of U.S. firms that have adopted a circular economy framework. This is important as our need for energy storage in the renewable energy, automotive and digital technology sectors grows. In fact, the Global Battery Alliance, under the auspices of the World Economic Forum, has deemed batteries a core technology for enabling the energy and transportation sectors to shift toward decarbonization.

There are many benefits of lead battery circularity, namely:

  • Conserving resources and creating new value. Nearly 100 percent of all lead batteries are recycled, creating a steady stream of materials for making new batteries.
  • Maintaining national security. Recycled materials foster energy independence and contribute to a more reliable secondary supply chain. Approximately 70 percent of the lead in batteries used by U.S. manufacturers is sourced from domestic recycling facilities.
  • Boosting the economy. Lead batteries have been recycled for more than 100 years and model a closed-loop system that decreases cost and increases value. 

In addition, the lead battery industry incorporates a variety of sustainable practices that should be a model of sound sustainability for other industries to follow.

  • Michigan-based Advanced Battery Concepts has developed and patented GreenSeal® technology, which reduces the amount of lead in batteries by 46 percent, making each battery lighter, and saving the average vehicle more than 20 gallons of fuel a year.
  • East Penn Manufacturing in Pennsylvania was the first to invent a patented process to recycle battery acid and today recycles millions of gallons annually for use in new batteries.
  • Georgia-based Exide Technologies is installing groundbreaking solar installations in Portugal. The project is one of the largest self-consumption generation units with storage in Europe. Upon completion, it will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of more than 2,000 homes.
  • Minnesota-based Gopher Resource has invested nearly $5 million in a storm water collection and re-use distribution system. The system saves nearly 17 million gallons of water annually.

On this Earth Day, we’re proud to recognize that lead batteries, a product that got its start at the beginning of the 20th century, continues to evolve. Through ongoing innovation, lead batteries are the aspirational benchmark for a dynamic circular economy business model and 21st-century sustainability.

Kevin Moran

Executive Vice President at Battery Council International
Kevin Moran is the executive vice president of Battery Council International, a nonprofit trade association for members of the international battery industry. Learn more at batterycouncil.org.

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