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News | Nov. 2, 2020

Lead-acid a positive for the environment

By Natalie Skelton, DLA Aviation Public Affairs

Batteries aren’t exactly great for the environment, but recycling is. Employees from Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Richmond, DLA Installation Management Richmond and DLA Disposition Services Richmond, Virginia turned a negative into a positive Oct. 28 when they decided to return over 1,500 lead-acid batteries back to the manufacturer.

Jimmy Parrish, chief of the Environmental Management Division, DLA Installation Management Richmond, said because of their lead-acid content, 33 pallets of batteries were stored in DLA Distribution’s hazardous warehouse on Defense Supply Center Richmond. They were for potential future use in High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled vehicles and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

“They are very similar to normal car batteries,” said Parrish. “All of the batteries are unused; however, they are very close to approaching their shelf life expiration, which means the warfighter cannot use them after that date.”

Josh Molnar, safety and occupational health specialist contractor for DLA Distribution, and Environmental Protection Specialists Charles Willard, DLA Distribution Richmond, and Terrence Taylor, DLA Installation Management Richmond, are credited with the idea of returning the batteries to the manufacturer, vice normal disposal.

East Penn Manufacturing, the original manufacturer of the batteries, will return them to their 520-acre single-site battery manufacturing complex in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The lead and acid will then be recycled and used in new batteries.

“By recycling the batteries, ultimate disposal is avoided, and the manufacturing of new parts [the lead] is minimized, which benefits the environment big time.” Taylor said.

“Disposal costs exceed $13,000, so recycling the batteries in lieu of ultimate disposal not only protects the environment – it’s also a positive on cost-saving measures.” Willard said.

The process of returning items to the manufacturer has been used before, and in this case, being able to beat the shelf life was critical, as the batteries’ internal contents are still usable.

Parrish said regarding inventory, matching available supplies to demand will always be a challenge.

“On one end of the spectrum, you would like to minimize costs by avoiding excessive purchases,” he said. “However, what is most important is that the part [battery] is there when the warfighter needs it.”

As with any two sides, it’s a balancing act.