Data centre professionals rely on lead-acid batteries as a reliable and cost effective energy storage resource. However some of the basic components of these batteries like lead sulfuric acid are potentially toxic if mishandled. Data centre owners should avoid self disposal of batteries. Simply throwing out a spent lead acid battery is illegal, environmentally irresponsible and can lead to a hefty fine. 

What to do with old batteries

In almost all cases, a battery reaches end-of-life without incident. Such a battery is considered “intact”. Intact UPS batteries are no more dangerous than other data centre equipment when handled correctly. However, an intact spent battery is still considered hazardous waste and must be treated as such according to national regulations.

Occasionally, a battery experiences stresses that can cause the case to swell, crack, or lose a cap. UPS Batteries in this condition are considered “damaged”. These damaged batteries are subject to more stringent regulations than are “intact” batteries. Damaged UPS batteries pose the risk of hazardous material release. Data centre professionals and other consumers with damaged batteries should consult an expert immediately for instructions on proper transportation and disposal. Regardless of quantity, all battery owners have to ensure environmentally safe disposal of their batteries.

If a replacement UPS battery is only required, recycling is often available to customers when new replacement batteries are purchased. The lead-acid battery recycling system is very effective. Polypropylene is recycled into more battery plastic. The sulfuric acid is collected and resold as commodity acid. The lead is smelted and returned back to batteries or applied to other uses of lead. Please contact the Collaborate IT team now if you wish to dispose of your current batteries and replace with a new set.

The recycling of UPS batteries is highly regulated under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment recycling (WEEE) directive. Recycling of WEEE is a specialist part of the waste and recycling industry and the Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013 (“the Regulations ”) became law in the UK on the 1st of January 2014. Fortunately, data centre owners are not required to be familiar with the large volume of regulations involved. By partnering with a reputable UPS supplier or battery manufacturer, most battery owners can safely dispose of their spent batteries free of charge.