Instructables

Extracting lead from car batteries?

I have a couple of battered old car batteries. There is no local scrap dealer that will take them so I was wondering if it would be possible to extract the lead myself and sell it for scrap. I have searched on google and cannot find anything about this and I suspect it would be dangerous and impractical. However I thought there's no harm in asking here. I was imagining that I could open the battery up and pour the acid into some kind of strong alkali, neutralising it to make it safe for disposal. But then, I certainly wouldn't like to try this without some advice first.
Cheers!
Pete


NachoMahma4 years ago
.  It is very difficult to handle lead in a safe manner, especially if you plan on melting the lead. If you melt it, you have lead fumes to worry about (plus fuel costs). If you don't melt it, you still have gloves and other protective clothing to dispose of.
.  The sludge (lead sulfide/sulfate/sulf?) may be difficult to process into elemental Pb without creating pollutants and/or using a lot of energy.
.  For small amounts, it just isn't worth the risk. Looks like scrap Pb is selling for about 0.50 USD/lb (but I didn't look very closely).
Lead melts at about 620F, but vaporizes at 3100F. That's a lot of safety margin. It's safe to melt, but I do suggest doing it in a well-ventilated area with personal protective equipment (smock, gloves, face guard).

Egads, is that my problem ?   When I was younger, I not only played with raw mercury,  but made a whole bucket load of sinkers out of a large lead brick......*sigh* 

I used to sell lead by the pound, as flashing for roofs and windows.  We used to unroll the lead sheet with bare hands, cut it with a knife, and roll it up again.

The metal is mostly dangerous if formed into pellets and fired at high velocity.

To process the sludge, I'd dry it, then heat it in air (say, in a clay plant-pot in the coals of a barbecue) to turn the sulphides into oxides, then stir in some powdered unburned charcoal, add a lid and heat again.

If you've remembered to put a collecting vessel under the hole in the plant-pot, you'll collect molten metallic lead.

OK, it's a bit smelly when you roast off the sulphides, but just do it outdoors.


back in my teens, when I melted the lead for sinkers,  I did it in the basement ....*sigh*
seandogue4 years ago
All in all, it would be far better environmentally to hand them off to a garage or other business that can better dispose of them than to attempt to personally recycle the batteries. As evidenced by lemonie's comment about "lots of lead-sludge"

The amount of money you would garner by selling the recovered lead is imo far outweighed by the environmental damage you're likely to do in the process of extracting them.
I'll agree, if the thing is old it'll be sludgy... but I have a facility for the sludge (or so I've been told).

L
well, if that's the case, but the author said he had no recycling facilities nearby...

eh...No offense intended, but I still feel that  the profits from such work still  far under-weigh the potential for environmental damage, especially if one needs to ask how to reclaim the lead in a garage setting. I'm of the mind to leave the battery recycling to the professionals, since their facilities are mandated by fed law (in the US) to maintain a certain level of "hygiene" that few individuals will be able to match. I expect the laws are equally or more stringent in the UK and elsewhere in the EU.

(on a personal note: I realize the material disposal laws are less strict for individuals than they are for corporate level players, at least in the USA, but imo, using that excuse in cases like toxic battery packs is really stretching the loophole. a dried 1/2" deep can housing the bit of house paint is one thing, and it's exactly  the quasi draconian situation the law was designed to prevent .  but batteries are entirely another. Yeah, one battery is nothing, but multiply that by 300+ million individuals and you get one huge, steaming pile of             sheesh)

blahblah mode off.
I wanted the lead and acid. Yes I'll agree with you otherwise.

L
I figured as much, and what's more, I'm aware of your abilities, so I have a certain confidence that you're not going to pour it down the drain or into a field because you can't find an appropriate disposal site. Not to say that the author would either, but in a general sense I don't trust people to do the right thing when no-one's looking or the law has a loophole that says they can (even if they shouldn't).
And obviously, there's a cool factor to learning directly about the innards of the beasties  Gotta love empiricism ;-)
I might finish the job off today... It had been dumped and was cracked, so I view this as a clean-up of sorts.

L
lemonie4 years ago
I'm most of the way through doing this. Draining is OK, extracting is hard work, my problem is that I've got a lot of lead-sludge that needs disposing of...

L
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I think you missed the step where the lead ingot turns to gold bullion.
I haven't finished yet...

L
peater (author) 4 years ago
Cheers folks. I will definately not attempt it.
kelseymh4 years ago
As NM and others have commented, it is quite difficult to handle lead safely.  For U.S. readers, here is OSHA's information on lead exposure.  And here is an HTML version of the MSDS.

The bottom line?  If you have not had training in how to handle lead (what PPE, what exposure levels are safe, what mitigation strategies to employ, etc.), you really should not be attempting this.  Like rewiring your main breaker panel, this is one of those "do not DIY!" projects.
caitlinsdad4 years ago
 Lots of stories on poor countries salvaging the batteries, be careful.
peater (author)  caitlinsdad4 years ago
Yeah I did read a couple of those stories during my search. Rest assured I am not going to attempt this unless I can find a totally safe method. Both for me and the environment.
lemonie4 years ago
I've got one, which I was thinking of making an Instluctable from. But I hsaven't finished yet,.


L