Shipping Lithium Batteries
Shipping best practices
If you aren’t sure, always check with your local transportation authority. In Canada, getting certified for dangerous goods transportation is a matter of doing an online or in-class training session from one of the many organizations that offer it. In the USA the process is a bit more structured, with a need for 49 CFR code book to be purchased as well. Regardless of how you will be shipping, we always recommend being as informed as possible.
Shipping pallets from Canada vs. from the USA
When you are shipping large volumes of batteries that fit on a pallet (EV batteries, many cases of small properly packaged batteries, or a compliant drum of individually taped batteries, you can use the Call2Recycle service. In Canada, if your battery is shipped through Call2Recycle, their packaging solution is licensed, which means that as long as you follow the instructions and use their package, the shipment will be deemed compliant even if you or members of your company are not certified for dangerous goods transportation. If you are shipping from within the USA, the packager MUST be licensed. That being said, Call2Recycle is working with the department of transportation to try and streamline this like they have done in Canada.
Shipping less than a pallet
If you are shipping less than a pallet, you will have to use a courier such as UPS, FedEx, or Purolator. USPS and Canada Post prohibit these packages. In that case, you must follow the respective rules for each carrier. We have provided summarized general information below on shipping rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (not the same as lithium metal batteries such as non-rechargeable ones). Note that this information may be dated when you find this, so always verify the most up to date guidelines on the websites below. This information is purely provided for convenience of having a summary before properly investigating the requirements.
The general information below only applies to ground shipments. Air shipments fall under a whole different and more stringent set of regulations (IATA). We will not be getting into air shipment, but you can find a summary of information here https://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_transport_batteries or the full IATA guidelines here https://www.iata.org/en/programs/cargo/dgr/download/
If the batteries are considered waste (not working or recalled), then it is absolutely prohibited to use the carriers. Dangerous waste must be handled under a stricter set of guidelines and Call2Recycle should be contacted to help you transport these batteries to a recycling center if you can not safely transport them yourself to a nearby collection center.
If the batteries are shipped alone, as opposed to being part of a piece of equipment, then registering as a dangerous goods shipper with the carrier is absolutely necessary. This makes small volume sales difficult if it will simply be occasional and should be reserved to businesses.
If the batteries are being shipped with or as part of a piece of equipment (think of how batteries bought from home depot are packaged in kits with equipment such as a charger or drill), then it may be possible to ship them without a dangerous goods contract with the carrier. To fall within this exception, the total weight of the batteries must be below 5kg, there can be no more than 2 battery packs of max 100Wh each, or 8 or fewer cells of 20Wh each or less, and there can be no more than 2 boxes in the shipment (so no sending 10 boxes of 4kg each to get around the limit!). Always verify with the carrier guidelines above to confirm if you qualify for shipping batteries without a dangerous goods contract, or your package may be refused, returned, or destroyed at your cost.
Packaging batteries and cells
Packaging batteries and cells (batteries from here on) is the same whether you are in the USA or Canada. The batteries must be individually packaged so that the terminals can`t touch (think boxes, separators or bags) and the batteries must be restrained so they aren’t knocking around (think padding, packing peanuts, or separators). The boxes must have the UN 3480 class 9 stickers for individual batteries, or UN 3481 class 9 stickers for batteries shipped with equipment. Some carriers require the use of the two separate stickers (UN 348X and the DG class 9 sticker), while others allow the combined diamond sticker. At the time of this writing, all carriers allow the use of both stickers. In either case, the Class 9 and the UN3481 stickers can be two separate stickers, or a single sticker depending on what you buy. The stickers should always be centered on the side of the box, and properly aligned. Cells should be at 30% state of charge for shipping.
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