Batteries are one of many products that should never reach the landfill. Even the most seemingly harmless household battery contains hazardous chemicals which, if allowed to enter the environment, can threaten both animal and human health, and the physical environment.
The EU Battery Directive, implemented on 1st February 2010, requires all shops and retailers selling more than 32kg of batteries to provide collection facilities in their stores. Those businesses who import one tonne or more in batteries per year are considered to be producers, and as such, must finance the recovery and treatment of waste batteries. Currently, there are over 18,000 collection facilities for used batteries, and this number continues to grow. Not only that, but there are now several companies who will pick up your waste batteries for recycling.
Benefits of Battery Recycling
The main benefit of not sending batteries to the bin is that the chemicals they contain will not enter the environment. Another is that well over 55% of a battery can be reused, as its steel, zinc, brass and other materials can be extracted at the recycling facility.
Recycling batteries also avoids a host of potential environmental problems and hazards, including the pollution of waterways, the leaching of heavy metals from landfills, and exposing the environment to strong acids and lead. The acids in batteries can burn skin and cause significant damage to eye tissue.
Batteries sent to the landfill can also combust due to high waste temperatures, which can release toxins into the air and be very dangerous for landfill employees.
Sorting is a Critical Part of Efficient Battery Recycling
Because batteries can be made from a wide variety of chemicals and materials, there are a number of ways to recycle them. Sorting is a crucial element of the recycling process, as when sorted into their different types, more of each battery’s raw materials can be recovered for the making of new products.
- Lithium Ion Batteries
Lithium ion batteries are common in laptops, and contain recoverable cobalt and steel. These materials can be used for the production of new electronics and batteries, as well as in the manufacture of paint and in the steel industry.
- Lead Batteries
Usually found in vehicles like forklifts and cars, lead acid batteries contain recoverable gypsum, polypropylene and lead. Once recovered, these materials can be used to make new lead acid batteries, as well as battery cases. They can also be used to make washing powder and filler for plasterboard, and be useful to many industries including agriculture and construction.
- Zinc Batteries
Zinc batteries are those which are most commonly used in households. From these, manganese, zinc and steel can be recovered for several industrial applications, as well as in the steel industry.
- Nickel Cadmium
These batteries are what power drills and similar tools. Materials able to be recovered from nickel cadmium batteries include cadmium, nickel and steel, which can all be used in the steel industry and for metal planing. They can also be reused in new batteries, although this use is restricted.
- Nickel Metal Hydride
Mobile phones are the most common carriers of nickel hydride batteries. Containing nickel and steel, these batteries are recycled and their raw materials able to be used in the steel industry.
Education is Key
The proper recycling of batteries at the household level requires much education to be provided by the councils who operate recycling programmes. Residents need to know not only how to recycle their batteries, but also be given appropriate mechanisms to do so (household containers, recycling locations, etc). Any instances where batteries have not been properly recycled correctly by the householder need to be answered with a reminder letter/email/call prompting proper recycling procedure.
Understanding the importance of recycling batteries and making the effort to educate residents about how to recycle them will result in continued benefit for our environment as well as reduced strain on landfills.
About Integrated Skills Limited
Integrated Skills, operating out of Romsey near Southampton, is a specialist provider of routing and route optimisation software, smartphone & tablet solutions, environmental management software, highways management software as well as environmental consultancy in the following sectors:
- Environmental service operations
- Highways service operations
- Parcel & post
- Newspaper deliveries
ISL is a partner of ESRI for the ArcGIS platform.
For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.