If you’re looking into recycling your batteries for money, you’ve probably noticed that the market price changes from day to day and even from city to city. What’s behind all this change?
This article explores what determines the market price for your batteries and what it all means for you.
How Are Batteries Priced?
Battery prices vary depending on the type(s) of batteries you have. The major types of batteries include:
- Lead-acid: conventional car batteries, uninterrupted power supply (UPS) units, telecommunications, industrial applications
- Lithium-ion: electric vehicles (EVs), cell phones, laptops, rechargeable electronics
- Nickel-cadmium (NiCad): backup power, transportation
- Alkaline: non-rechargeable consumer devices
Battery market prices are typically quoted by the pound. Depending on the battery chemistry and your location in the US, the market price can be as low as a few cents or as high as a few dollars.
Why is there such a huge difference in the market price for batteries? It turns out that there are a few factors that can affect how much your batteries are worth.
Which Factors Determine the Market Price for a Battery?
When thinking about the major factors that affect the market price of your batteries (or anything, really), you should consider three big things:
- Materials: What’s the current price of the materials inside my batteries?
- Shipping and transport: How easy is it to get batteries from the customer to the recycler?
- Supply and demand: Have there been any supply or demand “shocks” that have temporarily disrupted or boosted the availability of battery materials?
- Service factor: What added value is the battery recycler providing?
Let’s look at each of these three factors in more detail.
Materials: What’s Inside a Battery?
Different batteries incorporate different types of metals and materials, and this will affect the price of a battery. The most prevalent materials found in common batteries are:
- Lead-acid battery: lead, copper, sulfuric acid, water
- Lithium battery: aluminum, cobalt, copper, iron, nickel, manganese, lithium
- Nickel-cadmium (NiCad) battery: cadmium, nickel, potassium
- Alkaline battery: graphite, manganese, potassium, zinc
It’s important to understand what’s inside your battery because some materials are more common than others. For instance, while lead is cheap and abundant, cadmium is extremely rare (lithium is somewhere in the middle). Batteries that incorporate rare or expensive metals are more sensitive to global price fluctuations of these raw materials.
Of course, more abundant metals like lead fluctuate in price as well. Although lead is much cheaper than other metals found in batteries, the sheer volume of lead in a lead-acid battery means that a change of just a few cents can significantly impact the combined market value of your batteries, especially if you’re recycling large quantities.
Scrap metal prices change every day, which means that the market price of your batteries constantly changes too. Websites like the London Metal Exchange can help you track the most current market prices.
Shipping and Transport: How Easy Is It to Move Batteries?
The market price of raw materials used in batteries has a major effect on the value of your batteries, but it’s not the whole story. Even though raw material and scrap battery prices are quoted on global or national exchanges, shipping and transport costs can play a significant role as well.
For example, suppose that one business is located 10 miles from the nearest battery recycling facility while a second business is located 100 miles from the nearest facility. It would be much cheaper to transport batteries from the first business than from the second business. So, even though everyone is paying the same price for the batteries themselves, the added transport cost means that the two businesses are getting quoted different market prices for their batteries.
Shipping and transport cost is one reason why the price of batteries can differ widely from region to region, even within the same state. Depending on the available connections in a certain city (rail, ports, or trucking hubs), the market value of your batteries can differ from place to place.
Supply and Demand: Can the World Keep Up?
It shouldn’t be a surprise that supply and demand play a role in the market price of your batteries — the more people want something, the more expensive it becomes. What’s interesting about the battery industry is that both supply and demand have seen rapid changes over the last several years.
On the supply side, the pandemic temporarily slowed down almost every type of economic activity, and we’re only just starting to rev up productivity on a global scale. So, while the available supply of battery metals suddenly plummeted, the recovery has been much more gradual.
You may have read that the price of many second-hand products like used cars and refurbished laptops have become more expensive. The reason is that there simply isn’t enough supply to produce new products. If you’re looking to recycle batteries, this means that your batteries are becoming more valuable as well.
On the demand side, almost every major industry today uses batteries. Battery-powered devices have quickly become part of everyday life, from smartphones to all-electric vehicles (EVs). And while we’re more efficient than ever at mining battery metals, the industry simply hasn’t been able to keep up, even before the pandemic.
On the other hand, advances in battery technology have helped us get more power out of smaller batteries. But until demand starts to level off, expect to see higher market prices for your batteries.
Another thing to keep in mind is that supply and demand aren’t just limited to batteries. For instance, a sudden demand for iron or copper for construction can also affect the local or regional market price of your batteries.
Service Factor: What Added Value Are You Getting From the Recycling Company?
Finally, a good battery recycling company will provide a clear added value to your recycling program, and this will be reflected in the quoted market price for your batteries. Recycling companies can offer services such as:
- Quick and flexible pick-up schedules
- Attention to detail and compliance with the most current federal, state, and local regulations for battery recycling
- Ability to follow your company or government agency procedures about contractor vetting, documentation, and security clearance
- Providing detailed documentation and certification that your batteries were recycled according to EPA standards
Battery recycling companies that provide full “white-glove service” can save your organization money and reduce risk in the long term by assuming responsibility for your batteries from the moment they’re picked up.
How You Can Determine the Price of Your Battery Recycling Project Today
Interested in learning more about how much you can get paid for your batteries? The best thing to do is to get in touch with us online for a quote to recycle with us. You can also give us a call at (866) 827 1830.