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ECAR Fact Sheet for California
Batteries

 

Regulations
Self-Audit Checklist
Best Management Practices
Contacts
Related ECAR Fact Sheets
Other Relevant Resources

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The following fact sheet was prepared by the ECAR Center staff. Once prepared, each ECAR Center fact sheet undergoes a review process with the applicable state environmental agency(ies). You can check on the status of the review process here. Please read the disclaimer on the status page. While we have tried to present a summary of the essential information on this topic, you should be aware that other items, such as local regulations, may apply to you.

What You Need to Know

Because batteries contain lead and sulfuric acid, lead-acid battery disposal is fully regulated as a hazardous waste management activity. However, when intact lead-acid batteries are recycled, the handling requirements are relaxed. This fact sheet will tell you:

  • How to determine whether spent batteries should be considered a hazardous waste.
  • What you need to do to handle batteries in compliance with the rules that apply to you.

Regulations

In the state of California, spent lead-acid batteries do not fall under EPA's special "universal waste" designation. That designation is reserved for other types of batteries. However, California will give handlers of batteries a break from the demanding hazardous waste regulations if:

  • You generate no more than 10 batteries per year, or store or transport not more than 10 batteries at one time. If this is the case, you are not subject to the reporting and recordkeeping requirements as long as the batteries will go to someone who stores, recycles, uses, reuses or reclaims them.
  • You generate more than 10 batteries per year, or store or transport more than 10 at one time, but you follow the requirements and keep records about the batteries.

It is illegal to dispose of lead-acid batteries and can be punishable by a penalty of up to $25,000 per occurrence. If you plan to do anything other than recycle batteries, you must manage them as hazardous waste.

Storage. The following rules apply to the management and storage of spent batteries:

  1. Undamaged batteries should be stored upright on a covered pallet over a non-reactive curbed or sealed surface to prevent the terminals from short-circuiting.
  2. Damaged batteries are batteries that are cracked, broken or missing one or more caps. You must store and transport damaged batteries in non-reactive, secure, closed containers. (If missing caps can be replaced and there are no other leaks or damage, the battery can be managed along with intact batteries.)
  3. Damaged and intact batteries can be transported together so long as the container holding the damaged batteries is labeled in ink or paint with the date the first battery was placed there (accumulation date).
  4. Generators and interim storage facilities (those that hold batteries until they are sent to a battery recycler) that keep one ton or less may store batteries for up to one year at a single location.
  5. If you hold more than one ton of batteries at one location, you may not keep them for longer than 180 days.

If any of the above quantities or times are exceeded, the business is no longer exempt from the hazardous waste requirements.

Transportation. If you ship more than 10 batteries at a time, a legible hazardous waste manifest or a bill of lading must accompany the shipment. The generator, transporter and storage, recycling or disposal facility must retain their copies of those documents for 3 years.

The transporter must make certain that the batteries are loaded so as to prevent damage, leakage of lead, or short circuits, and must comply with all Department of Transportation regulations for hazardous materials. You may transport damaged batteries with intact ones so long as DOT standards are met.

Recordkeeping. Brokers and handlers of more than 10 batteries per year and those who transport more than 10 batteries at one time are required by the battery regulations to keep all copies of bills of lading or manifests related to the transport of lead-acid batteries for a period of at least 3 years.

DTSC no longer requires you to submit an annual battery report per section, but you must keep the data that would enable you to create such a report. That data should be found on the bills of lading and manifests.

Links to the Regulations. Use the following links to view the regulations pertaining to battery management.

California Code of Regulations


Self-Audit Checklist

When an inspector comes to your facility, there are certain things he or she checks to see if you are in compliance with environmental regulations. It makes good sense for you to perform a "self-audit" and catch and correct problems before they result in penalties. Also, there are some compliance incentives associated with self-audits (see Audit Policy Page).

Use the following list to audit your used battery storage areas and management procedures.

  1. Does the facility generate, store or transport no more than 10 batteries per year? Review records and current inventory to verify the size determination was correct. If so, you are not subject to the reporting and recordkeeping requirements so long as the batteries are being recycled.
  2. Does your facility generate, store or transport more than 10 batteries per year? If the management requirements are followed correctly, you may still manage the batteries under the relaxed standards.
  3. All battery handlers are required to meet specific accumulation time limits and quantity limits. Facilities handling one ton or less may store batteries for up to one year at any single location. Facilities holding more than one ton of batteries at one location may keep them no longer than 180 days.
  4. All battery handlers are required to manage the batteries and other solid waste generated from battery activities according to specific parameters and procedures. Verify that batteries are managed in a way that prevents releases of any batteries or battery components to the environment. Verify that batteries that show evidence of leakage, spillage, or damage that could cause leakage under reasonably foreseeable condition are stored in a container. Verify that containers are closed, structurally sound, compatible with the contents of the battery, and lack evidence of leakage, spillage, or damage that could cause leakage.
  5. Facilities that transport more than 10 batteries at one time are required to track off-site shipments. The hazardous waste manifest or bill of lading must accompany the shipment and copies must be kept by the generator, transporter and recycling facility for 3 years. It should include:
    • date
    • names and addresses of generator, transporter and receiving location
    • number of batteries transported
    • damaged batteries are marked

Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Most regulations tell you what you have to do to be in compliance, but they don't explain how to do it. That's where "best management practices" come into play. BMPs are proven methods that help you to get into compliance and stay there. The following BMPs are recommended for battery storage areas and management procedures.

  • Remove batteries before crushing any vehicles.
  • Test batteries to determine usability or resale quality.
  • If lead-acid batteries are recharged for resale, remove lead cable ends from batteries, store lead parts in a covered container that is strong enough to hold the weight of the lead and recycle the lead with a reputable recycler.
  • If spent lead-acid batteries are going to be recycled as scrap batteries, leave lead battery cable ends attached to the scrap batteries.
  • Check batteries for leaks, cracks, etc. prior to storing.
  • Place cracked or leaking batteries in a closed, watertight, acid resistant storage container.
  • Store batteries upright, on wooden pallets, in a secure, covered location, on a bermed impermeable surface or in watertight, acid resistant containers.
  • Do not pile batteries higher than four batteries high.
  • Remove other known sources of lead from vehicles when practical.
  • Store lead parts in a covered container that is strong enough to hold the weight of the lead.
  • Recycle lead parts with a metals or battery recycler.

Contacts

  1. Contact the DTSC Public and Business Liaisons at 800-728-6942, or go to http://www.dtsc.ca.gov. Follow the 'Toxic Questions?' and 'Contact a Live Person!' links to the page listing each of the Duty Officers' email addresses.
  2. To report large spills and releases to the environment, contact your local emergency response offices (usually 911) as well as the Office of Emergency Services Warning Center: 800-852-7550.

Related ECAR Fact Sheets

  1. Hazardous Waste

Other Relevant Resources

  1. Partners in the Solution Guidance Manual (Developed by the State of California Auto Demantlers Assn)
  2. California Department of Toxic Substances Control Management of Spent Lead-Acid Batteries Fact Sheet

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