Skip to content
Grist home
Support nonprofit news

Articles by Molly Peterson

Molly Peterson, formerly with NPR and Southern California Public Radio, now writes for all kinds of public media outlets.

Featured Article

The Interior of the Ecobat Facility as viewed from outside their premesis.

This story is being co-published with Public Health Watch.

West of the Rockies, just one lead battery recycler remains in the United States. If your car battery conks out in downtown Seattle or the Sonoran desert, it will probably be hauled to Ecobat, a lead smelter half an hour east of downtown Los Angeles.

Ecobat’s facility in City of Industry melts down 600 tons of batteries and scrap every day.  A conveyor belt takes the batteries to a hammer mill where they’re cracked open and slammed into pieces. Then a furnace blasts them with 1,000 degrees of heat. The resulting ingots or “pigs” of lead then ride on, to become batteries once again.  

Nationally, about 130 million car batteries meet this fate each year. Fewer than a dozen smelters do this work in the U.S. No other consumer product in the country closes its recycling loop so completely. 

But the crucial business of smelting lead is also a very dirty one.

Read more

All Articles