UPS Battery Backups and Recycling: What You Need to Know
Ever wonder how UPS batteries are disposed of when they are no longer used? Let’s start with what exactly is a UPS. The term UPS, stands for an “uninterruptible power supply/source,” and is a battery or flywheel backup that provides emergency power to a load when the electrical power fails. Unfortunately, UPS batteries are not everlasting, they eventually run out of power and must be reclaimed. Therefore, they must be recycled in accordance with federal regulations.
Federal regulations require the proper recycling of gel cells, batteries, lead-acid batteries and UPS battery backups. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Mercury-containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act, recycling is promoted to reduce the number of hazardous toxins in ground water and landfills.
Recycling is a Requirement
This is precisely why you need to recycle UPS battery backups when they are no longer needed. UPS batteries contain toxic chemicals, and must be recycled to adhere to federal mandates. During the process, the battery acid is neutralized and the lead is extracted so it can be used in new products. Any parts of the battery that cannot be used, follow safe disposal methods.
UPS battery backups are found in a number of electronics and power supplies, including telecom power systems, generator power equipment, backup power supplies, DC power systems, and certain pieces of industrial equipment.
How UPS Batteries Operate
When the batteries are recycled, they often are packed in bulk. As large companies may use the batteries, recycling becomes a matter of necessity when the battery backups are completely used. Much like the batteries that power automobiles, UPS batteries store electricity that uses a reverse chemical reaction that employs lead-acid. When this occurs, the negative and positive plates are suspended in water and sulfuric acid, known as an electrolyte.
Therefore, UPS battery backups work in a cycle of regular charging and discharging. If the battery is running low, the process can be reversed by recharging it. However, you can only charge a battery so many times. At a certain point, the component simply will fail.
A Highly Recycled Product
Fortunately, for environmentalists, UPS batteries are recycled a great deal. In fact, about 98% of all lead-acid type batteries were recycled between the years of 2009 and 2013. This type of recycle rate is higher than any other industrial or consumer product, including the recycling of glass bottles, newspapers, aluminum cans, and car tires.
Once UPS battery backups are detached and submitted to a recycler, the lead and plastic components are reclaimed, using stringent guidelines. Generally, the battery is first crushed into small pieces before being separated individually. The recycled plastic is used for the manufacture of new plastic goods, including automotive parts and plastic wheels. The lead, on the other hand, is delivered to manufacturers or industrial facilities.
How the Lead is Used
Lead recycled from UPS battery backups offers multiple uses, including the manufacture of nuclear shielding, new batteries, television screens, roofing materials, and military ammunition.
The recycling of lead from UPS batteries is so successful that 80% of new lead-acid batteries are made of recycled plastic and lead. Also, this type of process can continue. Therefore, a newly-made battery created from old components, can be recycle repeatedly.
An Equitable Trade-off
The recycling process that is used to reclaim UPS battery back-ups or lead-acid batteries not only enables the repurposing of batteries, it safeguards the planet from toxic contamination. Therefore, it is against the law in the US to dispose of lead-acid type batteries in the trash. In fact, most state laws mandate that an old battery must be recycled for each new battery that is sold by retailers.
An Easy Disposal Method for Recycling
Fortunately, most people or businesses can dispose of an old battery rather easily. That is because most battery retailers accept UPS battery backups. UPS battery recycling programs are featured at Best Buy, Advanced Auto, Staples, Home Depot, and Lowe’s. Vendors then delivers the used batteries to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) licensed recycling centers.