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Leaflet Warns of Risk Lithium-Ion Batteries Pose Safety for the Lead Battery Recycling Industry

Posted By BCI Headquarters, Monday, December 14, 2015

For further information contact: Bob Tolliday, ILA Communications Manager  | tel: +44 (0) 20 7833 8090

An information leaflet setting out the dangers of lithium-ion batteries entering the lead battery recycling process has been published.

The warning, which will be distributed to battery collectors, handlers and sorters, across Europe and North America, highlights the serious risk of fire and explosions if lithium batteries enter the lead battery collection and recycling process. The problem of identification between the battery chemistries is made particularly difficult as lithium and lead batteries can appear similar, especially when received in pallets or bins containing thousands of used batteries.

The joint initiative by the lead recycling and battery industries of North America and Europe, including the International Lead Association (ILA), the industrial and automotive battery manufacturing and recycling associations of Battery Council International (BCI) and Europe (EUROBAT) and the Association of Battery Recyclers (ABR), advises that lithium batteries should not be sent to lead recyclers and that an approved facility should be used for treatment and recycling this battery chemistry.

The leaflet is urgently needed as companies that operate secondary lead smelters have experienced an increase in the number of lithium-ion batteries mixed into deliveries of used lead-based batteries received as feedstock for their recycling process. Due to the chemical composition of lithium-ion batteries, if not properly handled, fires and explosions can occur during transport, storage, battery breaking and smelting processes of used lead-based batteries.

"Sadly a number of significant safety incidents have now been reported that have highlighted the risk to property, but more importantly the safety of employees," said ILA Regulatory Director, Dr. Steve Binks.

The leaflet includes tips to help identify battery types:

  • Read the label - Look out for the Pb symbol on lead batteries or the Li symbol on lithium batteries. It may also be possible to distinguish the chemistries by their manufacturer.
  • Notice the weight difference - Although they have similar dimensions lithium batteries are much lighter than lead batteries.

Rene Schroeder, EUROBAT EU Affairs Manager, said: "Communicating to all partners in the supply chain is essential to guarantee the safe handling of batteries at their end-of-life. Labelling of automotive and industrial batteries based on color-codes will be also an important tool to help collectors, sorters and recyclers to easily identify the different battery chemistries."

Mark Thorsby, Executive Vice President of BCI said: "The lead battery industry has the most successful recycling program in the world. In no way do we want to jeopardize our success or compromise our commitment to sustainability. Preventing lithium-ion batteries from entering the lead battery recycling process is critical to achieving that outcome."

"The introduction of lithium-ion batteries, which are commingled with lead batteries, has and will continue to represent a serious threat to the environment and employees' safety unless there is a successful campaign by upstream suppliers to divert such batteries from lead recycling facilities," said Dick Amistadi, President of the ABR.

Current labelling requirements serve to identify the heavy metal content of batteries and not the electrochemical system. A solution is now being developed to allow better identification of different battery chemistries in the US through the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC) through proposals to develop standardised colour-coded labelling.

Notes to editors

About ILA

The International Lead Association is the trusted global trade association for the lead industry and its member companies are at the forefront of the mining, smelting, refining and recycling of lead. ILA represents the producers of about 3 million tonnes of lead. The association is working towards a vision of a sustainable global lead industry that is recognised for the positive contribution it makes to society. 

ILA takes a leadership role in promoting responsible care and educating society about the benefits of lead for today's and future generations. Recent studies have shown that lead-based batteries achieve a recycling rate of 99% in the EU and USA.


EUROBAT is association for the European manufacturers automotive, industrial and energy storage batteries. EUROBAT has 52 members from across the continent comprising more than 90% of the battery industry in Europe. The members and staff work with all stakeholders, such as battery users, governmental organisations and media, to develop new battery solutions in areas of hybrid and electro-mobility as well as grid flexibility, renewable energy storage and demand response services.

About Battery Council International

Battery Council International is the North American trade association representing the lead-based battery manufacturing, supply, recycling and distribution companies - a total of approximately 250 companies and 35,000 employees. For more information, visit

About Association of Battery Recyclers

ABR is a group of companies involved in lead battery recycling. The members of the association share a dedication to environmental and community responsibility. We are committed to upholding all applicable laws and regulations for the safety of the public, our employees and the environment.

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