It can be easy to overlook the fact that your car is a complex machine. It requires maintenance and upkeep to keep running smoothly, and one of those components is the battery—the heart of your vehicle. Your car battery powers everything from the headlights all the way to the heater. Though they last a few years, you will purchase several batteries during the life of your vehicle. When your battery dies or shows signs of wear, it's time for a replacement.

When it's time to replace your car battery, the question arises, what do you do with the old one? Can you throw it in the trash? Is recycling a more sustainable option and safer for me? These are some common questions regarding your next steps. The good news is that dozens of resources are available to you to help you along the way.

Do Not Throw Your Car Battery into the Trash

Although car batteries may not seem hazardous, they have a lot of dangerous materials that can cause severe damage to the environment if thrown in the trash. Batteries contain lead, acid and toxic metals like mercury. Not to mention, car batteries specifically have dozens of other hazardous metals. It's essential to get rid of your car battery properly, as the chemicals inside can cause damage to those around but also wreak havoc on the environment if they get into water supplies or landfills. They have the potential to leach into soil and groundwater over time, contaminating water supplies and the surrounding terrain.

It's crucial to note that if you throw away your old car battery in everyday trash, it's not only illegal, but you could end up contaminating lakes and rivers. Batteries contain harsh metals that will do severe damage to the ecosystem. Whether car batteries are dead or still contain power, the best course of action is to drop them off with professionals. Most mechanics or automotive shops have the resources or contacts to dispose of your batteries properly.

Automotive Batteries Must Be Recycled

While many businesses won't accept car batteries as regular waste, options are still available. First, contact your local recycling center and ensure they take car batteries. Next, call ahead to find out whether they have specific requirements for your battery (some recyclers may require some history on the usage). If not, drop off the battery at the shop so the organization can safely recycle it. The same goes for any local waste management company—call them first to confirm they will take car batteries as part of their regular business practice.

Take Your Car Battery to a Proper Recycling Center

Throwing away car batteries yourself can have disastrous consequences. Their toxic contents pose a fire hazard or risk of exploding during disposal. The average lifespan of an automotive battery is three to five years, which means once the battery is dead, the materials are useless. To ensure that these batteries are not thrown away with the trash, have your mechanic or the automotive store you purchased the new battery from dispose of the old one.

Virtually 100% of a lead acid battery can be recycled. That includes the lead, plastic and sulfuric acid inside. These materials can be recovered and reused for other purposes. While you can recycle car batteries, you won't find them in your municipal trash can. The good news is that you don't have to risk harm to yourself or the planet when you dispose of them. Car batteries need to be taken somewhere that is equipped to dispose of them properly, such as a battery retailer or a local hazardous waste collection program. Recycling programs exist across the country, so there's no shortage of options for finding one near you. Many recycling centers even offer free drop-off services for batteries.

Keep Yourself and the Environment From Harm

As you can see, there are a lot of options when it comes to disposing of car batteries. If you're unsure where your battery should go, check with your local recycling center or waste management company. You'll be able to find out exactly what types of waste are accepted. If they cannot take car batteries, they can refer an outside company for disposal services.

It's been reported that most lead acid batteries are recycled. Around 98% of car batteries make it into the right hands for proper disposal. Every year, however, approximately 1.8 million used batteries are not responsibly recycled, causing the potential for harm to the ecosystem. Hopefully, these numbers will decline, and all automotive batteries can be safely recycled as intended. If you're still unsure what to do with your battery, contact a professional near you or check out the EPA website as another authority. Your battery may be disposed of in another legal and convenient way in your area.