Is battery recycling really necessary? Would it cause any damage if disposed of like any other trash in the bin? Let us take a look at some facts that would help us understand how batteries would affect the environment.
A battery basically consists of a chemical electrolyte and a heavy metal. These heavy metals include mercury, cadmium, nickel or lead. When these heavy metals are disposed of away, they can be extremely damaging to the environment, as they contaminate the soil and pollute the water. Recycling aims at reducing the number of batteries being disposed of as waste, preventing hazardous toxins from leaking out to landfills, and also to reuse the retrieved materials.
Storing used batteries at home can be dangerous as they could leak out hazardous materials.
- Look for a recycling drop box arranged by an organization, or locate a recycling facility near you.
In the case of single-use batteries,
- Cover the ends with a non-conductive clear tape. This will prevent the current transfer. Alternatively, you can pack each of these batteries separately in order to protect them from the current transfer.
- Pack the batteries with the help of a non-conductive material such as cardboard box or plastic. This will prevent any accident due to sparks.
In the case of rechargeable batteries,
- Remove the battery from the device.
- Use a non-conductive clear tape to cover the terminals.
There are various types of batteries, most of which can be recycled. Lead-acid automotive batteries and button cells can be easily recycled as compared to the other kinds of batteries. Rechargeable batteries like Lithium-ion, Nickel-Cadmium, Nickel-zinc, Nickel metal hydride can also be recycled. Let’s look at how each type of battery is recycled.
- Lead-acid batteries
Firstly, the batteries are broken down into pieces with the help of the hammer machine. These pieces are passed on to a tank where the heavier materials sink into the bottom and the plastic particles float. The floating materials are taken away and the liquid is drained off. As a result, we have lead and the heavy metals left behind. The plastic particles are washed, dried and melted down into a liquid state. This is then used in the manufacturing of new battery cases. The lead components are cleaned and melted in smelting furnaces, and then poured into ingot molds. Once they are cooled, they are sent to battery manufacturing units, where they will be melted again and utilized in the production of new batteries. The sulfuric acid in the used batteries can either be neutralized and turned into water or be processed and converted into sodium sulfate.
- Alkaline batteries
With the help of a specialized room temperature mechanical separation process, the various components of alkaline batteries are separated, which includes, zinc and manganese concentrate, steel, paper, plastic and brass which are then used in manufacturing new products.
- Lithium-ion batteries
With the help of specialized room temperature, oxygen-free mechanical process, lithium-ion batteries are separated into
- cobalt and lithium salt concentrates,
- stainless steel and
- Copper, aluminum and plastic.
Once separated, these components are sent to the manufacturing units to be used in the production of new products.