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I just got paid $300 cash for two dozen old lead-acid batteries. Here's how.

A lot of readers are asking: Where do I get dead batteries?:
I mostly got these batteries by seeing and asking for them. New cars wreck batteries pretty quick because the car computer never really turns off. So if the car isn't driven regularly it'll over-discharge and sulfate the battery.
I tell my friends to give me their toxic waste and I'll get rid of it, cuz I hate seeing buckets of drain oil left out in the rain. They give me their dead batteries also.
I picked up a few behind service stations and parts stores where people had orphaned them. A few came from my marina next to the dumpster, more came from the marine supply store. I told them I was experimenting with desulfating batteries and they told me to help myself to their scrap pile. Some came back to life from various magic treatments and I gave them to friends or built them into projects.

Those projects included as welders and power storage for solar welders, running power tools off them, as well as starting and lighting batteries for the Free Yacht.

I finally got around to taking the bad ones to the scrapyard and damn!
Here's what the robo-cashier at the scrapyard gave me for my load of toxic waste!
Batteries are worth real money now, if you can find the right buyer.

Step 1: Check the Market

The market goes up and down. Right now the dollar is low and China and India are buying scrap like crazy to sell it back to us as products. That drives up scrap values. Our military shooting and attracting bullets all over the world doesn't hurt the value of lead either.

Check the values online or in your paper, if it has a commodity markets listing.
You'll get less than this, because you're not selling a train car full. Unlike retail economics, in collection economics smaller quantities are worth less per pound.
If you're in a city with a port that ships to China, expect to get a higher price than elsewhere.
If you have a huge quantity, bargain up for a higher price. The yards that load ships won't usually bother with you unless you've got truckloads, but if you do, they'll pay accordingly higher.

"TL" means "Truck Load". "LTL" means "Less than Truckload".

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Step 2: Call Around, Load up, and Haul

If you run into a scavenger with a truck or a shopping cart full of cans, ask them what the best places are to sell different kinds of scrap.
Now call those places, other local scrapyards and recyclers and ask them if they buy what you have and how much they pay.
Within 5 miles of me (and the port of Oakland) I heard prices ranging from
"No", "$5 a battery", "fifteen cents a pound" and "twenty cents a pound".
They're allowed to offer you whatever they want. It's a business and they have expenses.
They'll ask you how much you have. If you say you have more, they may offer a better rate.

CASS recycling had the best price for batteries of the places I called.

Load up your batteries and head out. Don't hurt your back. A spine is worth more than any amount of scrapmetal. Notice how low the Ugly Truckling's rear springs are. The ride was very smooth.

Step 3: Cash it In

Stop at the scrapyard office and ask them what to do. We waited in a line of other trucks for a while til one of those guys told us that since we just had batteries, we could drive right in.
Once inside the yard, they had us load our batteries on a cart, push the cart onto a scale.
They asked me for ID, my address, and had me sign a form promising that I was the lawful owner of the stuff I was selling them. There's been a big problem in the city with "copper miners" stealing metal wires, pipes, etc. to recycle for money, so there's a law requiring this form.
Then they printed me a reciept with a barcode at the bottom.

"Behind the woman in yellow is a little room like a closet. Scan the barcode there and the ATM will give you your money. You'll get the dollars, but you won't get the coins."

Here's the ATM, and the sign saying that they'll write you a check for the coins if you really want them to.
I hadn't looked at the reciept, so I was pretty amazed when hundred dollar bills started spewing out of the machine. I guess those batteries weighed more than I thought they would.

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Bio: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of www.zcorp.com, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output ... More »
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