Johnson Controls is using its position as a world leader in lead-acid battery production and recycling to enhance the company's global infrastructure of automotive battery recycling. The company has led development of a reverse distribution collection infrastructure and worked with other industries, retailers and consumers to promote battery recycling.
"The closed-loop infrastructure we've developed in the United States is a best practice that we are working to optimize in other parts of the world," says Alex Molinaroli, president of Power Solutions for Johnson Controls. "Given the volatility in lead pricing, our strategy around recycling is critical."
The process works as follows:
- The company's manufacturing plants build batteries using equipment and processes designed with pollution control in mind. All equipment is properly maintained and permitted per government requirements.
- Johnson Controls deliver fresh batteries to its more than 10,000 customer locations on a regular basis.
- On delivery, the company picks up spent batteries at each location.
- The spent batteries are transported to a licensed smelter for recycling. In the recycling process, the lead is separated from the polypropylene and fed into a furnace for smelting.
- The lead is then returned to Johnson Controls for use in new batteries. The polypropylene is washed and also recycled.
- Lastly, the acid is treated in the smelter's wastewater treatment plant and neutralized.
As a result of Johnson Controls' leadership, lead-acid automotive batteries are one of the most highly recycled consumer products, with return rates frequently exceeding 95 percent in the United States.
The company is sharing its expertise with leaders around the world. Some examples of the company's continued leadership include:
- In Mexico, Johnson Controls has developed sustainable distribution systems, such as its LTH Distributors Network, where nearly 100 percent of automotive batteries are returned and recycled.
- In summer 2007, Johnson Controls led a tour of Chinese officials to world-class smelters in Europe and North America, including a stop at the company's smelter in Monterrey, Mexico. The tour was part of the company's partnership with the Chinese National Government to sponsor a study that will eventually help China adopt a better closed-loop recycling system in which manufacturers reclaim the lead, plastic and acid that comprise each battery, thereby standardizing the process and helping to cut down on pollution and related health risks.
- In December 2007, Johnson Controls participated in an EPA workshop that was sponsored by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation and the U.S./Mexico Border 2012 Program. Vice President of Global Operations for Johnson Controls, Jorge Guillen discussed the company's best practices in closed-loop battery recycling.
For more information about Johnson Controls and its recycling practices, visit the company's Web site.