Department of Environmental Conservation

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Lead-Acid Batteries

Lead-acid batteries are a type of rechargeable battery commonly used in our cars, trucks, recreational vehicles, and boats. These batteries lose charge over time and must be properly managed at the end of their useful lives. It is illegal to dispose of spent or otherwise unwanted lead-acid batteries in the trash.

The Lead-acid Battery Recycling Law (link leaves DECs website) was signed into law on May 17, 1990, and took effect on January 1, 1991. The law requires retailers and distributors who sell lead-acid batteries to accept used batteries from customers.

Consumers purchasing a new lead-acid battery:

You can return your unwanted lead-acid battery for recycling to a retailer at the time you purchase a new one. The retailer will charge you a $5 "return incentive payment" if you do not return a used battery when buying a replacement. The retailer who sold you the battery will refund the $5 payment if you return a used battery within 30 days of the purchase date of the new battery.

Consumers who illegally dispose of lead-acid batteries shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $50 for each violation. Additional recycling outlets are available. Most scrap metal recyclers will accept lead-acid batteries for recycling.

Requirements for retailers and distributors:

  • Accept, free of charge, up to two used batteries per month from any individual, regardless of whether or not the individual purchases a new lead-acid battery.
  • Post signs displaying the universal recycling symbol and stating the following:
    Online retailers must also notify consumers it is illegal to dispose of lead-acid batteries in the trash.
  • Charge a $5 "NYS Return Incentive Payment" to a consumer purchasing a new lead-acid battery if the consumer does not return a used lead-acid battery at the time of such purchase. Retailers must refund the $5 return incentive payment to the consumer when they return a lead-acid battery within 30 days of the purchase of a new lead-acid battery. Retailers may legally keep unredeemed payments.
  • A sales invoice or receipt must show the $5.00 NYS Return Incentive Payment as a separate line item. Any additional charges to incentivize the return of old batteries must be listed separately from the $5.00 NYS Return Incentive Payment.