In The U.S., Is It Legal to Throw Car Batteries in The Ocean?

Like almost any other thing, car batteries have an expiry date when they become quite useless and ready to be disposed of. However, you cannot dispose of a car battery like a piece of candy or a wrapper, so what is the appropriate way to do away with an old battery? 

Is The Ocean a Good Place to Throw a Car Battery?

The ocean is a habitat, just like the land is to us humans, so throwing batteries in them is not a good idea. Also, the components of a battery, such as acid, will mess up the ocean’s composition. The ocean is an essential part of our ecosystem, a source of food for us, a place for relaxation, and a factor that greatly affects life on earth; therefore, we should avoid tampering with its natural state. There are better ways to get rid of car batteries which you will learn as you read on. 

throwing a car battery away

What Happens If a Battery is Thrown into the Ocean?

The things that make up a car battery are harmful to the environment, and this does not exclude water bodies. Here are the negative effects of throwing batteries in the ocean:

  • Lead poisoning:

The contents of a car battery include lead which is a poisonous element. This will leak into the ocean and cause a threat to aquatic life. It could cause mutation in marine animals and make the water unsafe for them to live in. If there is an accumulation of lead in the ocean, it makes it unsafe for our leisure too. As a ripple effect, consuming seafood from affected oceans can cause lead poisoning in humans. So, polluting the ocean is detrimental not only to aquatic life but to us as humans also. Lead poisoning has been discovered to cause learning and behavioral problems in children. 

  • Pollution:

Batteries take very long to decompose, so they can take up space in the ocean making less oxygen flow for aquatic life. Also, dirt and grease begin to accumulate, making the water body stink and unfit to use. Oceans can serve as a relaxing area and a contributor to a location’s revenue when people pay to relax, swim, ski, and so on, but no one would want to do all that in a polluted ocean. Throwing a battery in the ocean might seem like a harmless action, especially if it is just one, but the ripple effect will be felt in the economy too. 

  • Depletes quality of aquatic life:

Defects, mutations, and unhealthiness of aquatic animals have been linked to chemicals that pollute their habitat- the ocean. Batteries contain acid, lead, and some other toxic components that are harmful to living things in general. Dumping them in the ocean will cause the production of weaker species, deformed offspring of sea animals, and even extinction from the affected ocean. Some of these animals may decide to migrate to a safer water body and not be found in that area anymore. 

It is illegal to dispose of car batteries in the ocean. This is because it negatively impacts aquatic life, pollutes the environment, and renders the ocean toxic. In the USA, some laws regard the recycling of batteries instead of incorrect disposal.

Why Do People Dump Batteries in the Ocean?

Most people may do this out of ignorance, treating an old battery like just another piece of trash. They might also think it is safer than dumping it in the trash, and since the ocean is not a habitat for humans, it is a better alternative and far away from the vicinity. However, these reasons are wrong because even if the ocean is not our primary habitat, it is an important part of our ecosystem and a source of food (fish, shrimp, crab). It is also a means of transportation, so if ocean dumping was normalized, everyone would do it, and it could tamper with journey routes. 

What Are the Laws Regarding Battery Disposal in the U.S.?

In the United States, federal law demands the handling lead and nickel-cadmium batteries as universal waste. As battery stewardship regulations become more common in North America, Call2Recycle helps battery and product manufacturers fulfill recycling requirements in the U.S.

In California, the law requires that every battery owner recycles their batteries. There are designated areas that collect batteries for disposal and recycling in this state.  

What is Call2Recycle?

Call2Recycle is a consumer battery recycling and stewardship program in the United States. They are a public service NGO administered by the RBRC, which is the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation. 

What is the US Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Act?

This act was signed into law by Bill Clinton on May 13, 1996. The law was established to reduce the use of mercury in batteries and ensure a proper collection, recycling, and disposal of old nickel-cadmium batteries, small sealed lead-acid batteries, and other types of batteries. Violation of this act attracts a civil penalty in the form of a fine. 

Proper Ways to Dispose of A Battery

Instead of throwing them in the ocean, you can dispose your batteries in proper ways, such as:

  • Return to the auto store:

Some automotive stores encourage customers to return their old batteries and even reward them for it. Stores such as Walmart, O’Reilly, and Autozone collect old batteries from customers for recycling. In exchange for the return, customers receive a refund on the battery core charge in the form of cash, credit, or discount on the next purchase.

  • Scrap selling: 

You can sell battery scraps to scrap yards, metal recycling centers, and auto repair shops. Most of them charge the batteries per pound of lead. A car battery contains about 20 pounds of lead, so if the rate per pound is 0.33 cents, then you sell the battery for $6.60. 

  • Designated disposal centers:

Some states have special centers where you can dispose of your battery. Just find one closest to you and submit your battery. The batteries submitted will be gathered and properly disposed of (or recycled) at the appropriate quarters. 

Can old batteries be trashed?

Most batteries are unsafe to keep in your regular trash can. So it is best to submit them for recycling. Trashing them can lead to land pollution, lead poisoning, acid spills, explosions, and other hazards. It can also endanger animals and pets in the environment. 

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