Johnson Controls
Battery Recycling Center

Objective: an industry-leading facility to support the company’s closed-loop process by recycling 40,000 batteries per day or 132,000 metric tons per year – the equivalent of more than 14 million lead-acid automotive batteries – for reprocessing into components used in the manufacture of replacement batteries.

Client: Johnson Controls Power Solutions Americas, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Location: Florence, South Carolina

Size: 440,000-square-feet


  • Duke Energy 2013 Power Partner
  • 2013 National Design-Build Award, Design-Build Institute of America, water/wastewater category
  • 2013 Excellence in Environmental Engineering Grand Prize Award, American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES), industrial waste management category
  • 2013 W. Wesley Eckenfelder Industrial Waste Management Medal
  • ACEC-SC Engineering Excellence Honors Award

Cost: $150 million

Image of an architectural design for a recycling center

Johnson Controls was facing long odds. Although US law requires that all automobile batteries be recycled, no permit for a new domestic lead-acid battery processing facility had been issued in more than two decades. While proximity to the region’s battery manufacturing industry guided site selection, the chosen location –an isolated yet ecologically sensitive site near South Carolina’s Great Pee Dee River – further complicated permitting and planning. The company’s proposal to replicate the operations of its model recycling plant in Garcia, Mexico was insufficient to overcome community and regulatory objections.

A new approach was needed that would win support by minimizing environmental effects and maximizing economic impact. Ideally, the solution would contain, treat, and repurpose/reuse all raw materials, product components and process waste to create a closed-loop, zero-discharge recycling operation.

Using the state-of-the art facility in Mexico as a model, Carlisle Associates refined its multi-building complex into a single structure that houses all functions, including disassembly, processing, refining, warehousing, and administration, by zone. By consolidating entry points and simplifying employee movement during the workday, this streamlined design not only reduces travel time and optimizes material handling, it also greatly reduces the number of potential pollution points.

At the same time, Carlisle applied its food-processing industry expertise to identify and install innovative control-point systems, based on the new workflow patterns, to minimize cross-contamination caused by movement of workers, visitors, materials, air or water across zones.

Built on 36 developed acres surrounded by a pristine 685-acre site permanently protected by conservation easements, the facility introduces virtually no gas, liquid, or particulate emissions into the undeveloped acreage. Integrated containment systems and energy-conservation measures are designed to capture and retain all distillate on site. For example, storm water runoff washes any lead dust from the facility’s exterior into a series of landscaped bio swales that contain mulch and vegetation, organic materials that naturally bond with lead. Periodically, the lead-laced organic material is harvested and used as fuel in the smelter furnace. The lead bullion that remains is reprocessed, and water collected from the bio swales is filtered and recycled for production use.

Eighty percent of the facility’s area requires the use of Level A Personal Protective Equipment due to the presence and potential transfer of hazardous vapors, liquids and solids. Advanced HVAC systems, dedicated site-wide transportation routes and controls, and worker-friendly change and decontamination stations ensure regulatory compliance and prevent transfer of contaminants between production environments and workers’ homes. Bright, comfortable locker rooms, classrooms, labs, break areas and a venditeria further enhance employee hygiene and safety. Office areas are designed to LEED standards.

The Florence facility is dramatically cleaner and more efficient than existing US plants. The facility has an enviable record of operating within permitted guidelines and participates in the SC Department of Natural Resources Stewardship Program.