Critical Power Supplies - Facebook-double Critical Power Supplies - Twitter-double Critical Power Supplies - Linkedin-double Critical Power Supplies - Google-plus-double Freephone 24 Hour: 0800 978 8988 Int: +44 (0)1844 340122

How to Recycle Old UPS and Battery Backup systems

Published by Lee Kelly on 05 February 2020

There are rules in place in the UK to regulate how you dispose of electrical and electronic equipment, including UPS and batteries when they are no longer needed. If you fail to follow these rules, you risk breaking the law, and equally as bad or worse, you could be responsible for causing significant environmental damage.

The UK Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations

The Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013 became law in the UK on 1 January 2014, replacing the 2006 Regulations. The directive requires the collection, treatment, recycling, and environmentally sound disposal of electric and electronic equipment, including batteries. Businesses that store, treat, use or dispose of waste electrical and electronic equipment must comply with the regulations. If you fail to comply with the directive, you risk breaking the law. Critical Power Supplies - WEEE Symbol

Licensed Disposal Services

Accredited waste disposal service companies are licensed by the UK Environment Agency to be waste carriers. They will remove, transport, and dispose of your electrical waste in accordance with the WEEE directive. Items they can remove and recycle might include the following: IT servers, network peripherals, data cables, server rack cabinets, power distribution cables, electrical cables, cooling systems, and UPS.

The company will break down equipment and components to their base materials and work with specialist recycling companies to ensure as much as possible is safely reclaimed for reuse. Any components that cannot be recycled are disposed of in the correct manner.

You will need to work with a professional recycling company for disposing of computers and IT equipment for data security reasons, as well as to ensure you comply with the WEEE Directive.

Discarding of UPS and Batteries

A critical part of the UPS is the battery bank. The battery provides the energy needed to ensure that a continuous flow of clean power is available to the critical process the UPS is powering. Lead-acid batteries are currently the most common technology in UPS applications.

Critical Power Supplies - APC Replacement Battery Cartridge

The two main lead-acid battery types are valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) and flooded (or vented or open), with the two main VLRA types being distinguished by their electrolyte composition: absorbed glass material (AGM) and gel. UPS applications normally work with a VLRA AGM type battery, not least because AGM batteries charge faster and can deliver a high current of short duration.

However, some of the basic components of these batteries are potentially toxic if mishandled. Throwing a lead-acid battery away is illegal, environmentally irresponsible, and can lead to a hefty fine. Instead, you must ensure environmentally safe disposal of your end-of-life, lead-acid battery.

Critical Power Supplies - How to Recycle Old UPS and Battery Backup systems image 1

When you buy new UPS, batteries, or electrical or electronic equipment from Critical Power Supplies, we can arrange to collect your old equipment from your premises. We will then treat and dispose of components in accordance with the WEEE directive. Even if you have not purchased from us, you can call our Customer Care Centre and arrange to send your electrical equipment, UPS, or batteries to us. On receipt of your items, we will issue you with a recycling number.

Recycling a Lead-Acid Battery

If you are buying a replacement UPS, you will probably have the opportunity to recycle your old battery at purchase.

Alternatively, just as you can use an accredited company or an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF) to dispose of your electrical items, the same applies to lead-acid batteries. Contractors must be registered with the Environment Agency, and for health and safety reasons, they must be trained to suitable standards. These standards include working within AC and DC power environments and handling batteries and hazardous substances. Your end-of-life acid battery will be taken to a registered recycling centre, and waste transfer notes will be provided for trace-ability.

Lead-acid batteries are regularly recycled, and up to 90 per cent of the material can be reclaimed for later usage.

  • Polypropylene is recycled into more battery plastic and used to produce new battery cases.
  • Sulfuric acid electrolyte is collected and resold as commodity acid. 
  • The lead is smelted and reused in batteries or other products.
  • Any parts that cannot be used are disposed of safely.

Lithium-ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries have a design life of 10 years or more, but recycling them at end of life is far more difficult; there are no lithium-ion battery recycling facilities in the UK. Lithium-ion batteries can pose a fire risk if they are damaged or exposed to water, and this can lead to them forming lithium hydroxide and hydrogen gas.

UK and recycling and what you should do

In the UK, UPS battery recycling is heavily regulated under the WEEE directive. Typically comprising lead plates, sulfuric acid electrolyte, and some type of plastic casing, most or all of the components can be recycled.  Electronic equipment disposal and electrical waste disposal need to be handled by a licensed company that complies with the WEEE Directive.

Critical Power Supplies is licensed to remove and dispose of your old UPS system for you, including the UPS battery. In addition, our UPS recycling service is available to customers of all sizes and in all types of business or operation. When you buy new UPS or batteries and electrical and electronic equipment from us, we can arrange for the collection and treatment of your existing waste electric and electronic equipment.

Even if you have not purchased from us, you can still send your UPS and batteries to us for recycling. Call our Customer Care centre to learn more or to arrange receipt of your electronic equipment.