What's the Most Recycled Product?

By Sherry Boschert

Name the consumer product with the highest rate of recycling. Aluminum cans? Nah, a relatively wimpy 50%-80% get recycled.

If you've been paying attention you might guess car batteries - and you'd be right. As John Voelcker reported recently in an excellent post on GreenCarReports.com, 99% of 12-volt lead batteries in cars get turned in for recycling when they're replaced with new ones.

Four months ago we cited the same Environmental Protection Agency data that Voelcker cited, in our list of the Top 12 Plug-in Electric Vehicle Myths. (See Myth #6.) But I'm happy whenever the media help debunk one of these myths, because the same questions and fears come up again, and again, and again.

We're on track for newer nickel-metal-hydride and lithium-ion car batteries to have the same stellar record as older lead batteries. Of course, we still need regulators to ensure that recycling is done properly, because there are scam artists in any industry who are willing to cut corners and cause environmental damage if it saves them a few pennies.

But the next time you're talking about electric vehicles and someone says, "What about the batteries -- what happens to them?" you can tell them, "Ninety-nine percent recycled." And they don't have to take our word for it. Ask the EPA.

(Photo of Varta lithium-ion battery courtesy of Claus Ableiter under Creative Commons license.)