12 volt car batteries are still made out of very caustic materials. Generally, a wet cell battery is made out of lead and sulfuric acid. It is important to make sure these are recycled rather than ending up in our landfills.
There is an incentive whenever you purchase a new car battery to return the core to the place of purchase. A core charge is usually tacked onto your bill for the new battery. A core is the old part or component (in this case the old battery). When you give the core back to the place where you purchased your new battery, you can receive money back.
If for any reason you have a lead-acid battery lying around, you can also take it to any auto parts store, or to your local hazardous waste facility to have it recycled properly.
According to Clarios at recyclingmybattery.com this is how a 12v car battery is recycled:
The old lead-acid batteries are broken apart
Lead and heavy materials are separated from the plastic
Lead is formed into lead ingots, which are then melted down again to form the lead plates and other lead components of the battery.
The polypropylene is formed into pellets that are then made into new battery cases.
The old battery acid is processed and converted into sodium sulfate, which is used in detergent, glass and textile manufacturing.
With so many hybrid vehicles on the road today, their big hybrid batteries also need to be recycled. These batteries are broken down in a similar fashion where they are taken down to their individual core components, then melted and re-used. Many lithium-ion batteries that no longer have enough power to power a car still have plenty of power to house electricity within a solar power grid, so they can also be repurposed.
It is super important that batteries don't end up in our landfill. Please let me know if you have any questions on where to safely recycle these in YOUR area!
Photo of exploded battery view provided by autobatteries.com