My poisonous pile

My office is piling up with the victims of loadshedding: failed gate-motor and alarm batteries that were never designed to be fully depleted so frequently. When I complained to a salesman that my latest gate-motor battery had lasted only 7 months, he suggested that I be grateful; some of his customers were replacing their batteries every month.

These 12 volt, 7 amp batteries are made with poisonous lead, just like car batteries. They should be kept out of the landfill and sent for recycling. Besides, the lead has real value, especially since lead is one of the few metals that South Africa has to import. But since I was uncertain where to take them, I let these heavy, black bricks accumulate over the past few years until I had a stack of eight. The time had come to learn the best locations for lead-acid battery recycling. Actually, they were easy to find, and some even pay for used batteries.

Pick n Pay stores commonly have recycling bins at the entrance, including one for batteries. I phoned Uniross, which handles the batteries collected in these bins and learned that ordinary alkaline cells are not recyclable, but can be left in the bins for safe disposal. Small lead acid batteries like mine will be recycled. For more information on other battery types, click here.

Automotive suppliers that sell car batteries are legally required to charge a deposit on the batteries they sell and pay a deposit on the car batteries they receive. Alas, the two local branches I phoned of Battery Centre and Midas would not offer to pay for my lead-acid batteries, but they would take them off my hands. The staff who answered the phone gave me pause with their comments: “I’ll help you get rid of them,” and “They get disposed of safely.” But since these suppliers are regularly shipping car batteries for recycling, I have a fairly high level of confidence that smaller lead-acid batteries would also end up in the right place.

First National Battery has a battery recycling plant in Benoni. If you drop off at the facility, they will pay R4/kg for any lead-acid battery. My eight batteries weigh about 17kg, so they would be worth R68. Unfortunately, I live too far from Benoni to justify the time and emissions of traveling that far. For more information call 0800 333 462.

Scrap metal dealers pay even better prices. I spoke with Maningi Scrap Metals in Marlboro, Johannesburg, and their price for lead-acid batteries is R7 a kilogram. One comfort in selling the batteries rather than dropping them off is that the buyer has a financial incentive to make sure they are actually recycled.

But for the best balance between confidence and convenience, I’m dropping my batteries off next time I shop at Pick n Pay.