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Recycling Batteries 101

April 2, 2015

aHave you ever wondered what’s in a battery that makes it work and why recycling batteries is important? Heavy metal describes a popular genre of music. It also describes the minerals and metals that help make up batteries, like lead, nickel, cadmium (an extremely toxic ingredient), and mercury. A battery’s structure uses these contents to convert chemical energy to electrical energy

What’s In a Battery?

Batteries vary in content depending on their size and what they need to power. Besides the things listed above, batteries usually contain things like plastic, steel, brass, paper, and potassium hydroxide. Primary batteries like the household alkaline battery contain zinc and manganese. Rechargeable batteries are the popular name for secondary batteries, which can be recharged many times before they completely quit working. We can recycle rechargeable batteries because of the chemical changes to the minerals during processing.

Different Types of Batteries

Batteries are a way of life in our techno-savvy society. How many things in your personal life rely on this kind of power? Cell phones, hearing aids, eReaders, flashlights, solar lights, laptops, portable DVD players, and toys are probably on your short list. Cars, motorcycles and buses depend on batteries for an intense jolt of power to start the engine. Even the remote control for the home entertainment system relies on batteries. A few common types of household batteries are AAA, C, D, button, and 9V.

Protect Living Things

How harmful is this stuff? You can protect the quality of soil, surface water, and ground water with safe battery disposal, including the heavy metals within. Batteries can explode when burned, releasing dangerous metals into the air or leaving them active in the ashes. When put into landfills, rain and snow can cause acids and lead to leach out and contaminate the area.

Minerals & Metals Used in Batteries

Alkaline batteries include common metals like zinc, steel, and manganese. Rechargeable batteries contain cadmium, lead, lithium, nickel and zinc. As noted in The Innovation Diaries site, commercially-available batteries are filled with chemicals that are hazardous when exposed to the natural environment

How can I safely dispose of batteries?

Battery manufacturers like Duracell provide online battery disposal and recycle tips. Quite a few battery collection programs encourage the habit of recycling batteries by accepting all household batteries. The donations are later sorted through to pick out the button and nickel-cadmium varieties accepted by recycling facilities. Most states permit alkaline battery disposal in everyday trash pickup. Environment, Health, and Safety Online can provide you with guidelines for disposal of your batteries.

Achievements in Battery Recycling

Greenfudge.com reports that Belgium is collecting its batteries and flashlights in a more and more efficient way, according to the press release of the non-profit organization Bebat. The group specialises in giving a second life to used batteries and flashlights (torches). In 2013, the number of batteries collected selectively by Bebat increased by 5% compared to the previous year. This means that the association can boast a collection proportion of 52,8%, which ranks Belgium among the countries with the most efficient battery recycling projects.

A Step Backwards for Battery Recycling

According to Treehugger.com, the Federal Government is not doing us any favors in our efforts to recycle batteries. Federal law requires that every battery sent to their facilities like Battery Solutions must either be bagged individually in plastic or have both terminals taped. Yes, that’s right, the Federal government is requiring people to waste plastic in order to recycle batteries.

Alternatives to Buying Batteries

Carry a list that describes what size and how many of each new battery are stored in your home. Keep the extras in the same area by size. Placing the ones that expire soonest in the front makes them easy to grab whenever something needs a new battery. Save money when battery disposal is only required for batteries that have served their purpose.

Supercapacitors, also called ultracapacitors, store electricity and deliver power quickly. They last a long time because they are built without moving parts. Right now they are huge and expensive. Continuing research and engineering are likely to make the supercapacitor follow the history of computers and transistor radios by becoming manageable in cost and size.

What Planet Green Recycles

When folks sign up for our fundraising recycling program, one question that often comes up is “do you recycle batteries?”. The answer is no, that’s not our focus.

cellWe do recycle the cellphone batteries that are shipped to us along with old cellphones, but we don’t focus on batteries specifically. Here’s a list of the items Planet Green Recycle accepts for recycling:

  • Calculators
  • Cell phones
  • Digital & video cameras
  • eBook readers
  • GPS systems
  • Inkjet cartridges
  • iPads
  • iPods
  • MP3 players
  • Mobile Hot Spots
  • Pagers & Accessories
  • PDAs
  • Radar Detectors
  • Tablets
  • Video Games & Accessories
  • Video Game Consoles & Handhelds
  • You can even send laser and toner cartridges to Planet Green!

Where to Recycle Batteries

Recycling batteries gets easier every year. Battery disposal is available at community recycling locations and through businesses like Planet Green. Some states, like California, benefit from state laws requiring recycling for nearly every kind of battery. Special bins hold recyclable household batteries and are picked up on trash day.

The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation is a nonprofit organization with a mission to preserve the environment. Its Call2Recycle® program will help you find out more about battery disposal and who to contact about recycling batteries in your area.

Just as recycling batteries helps keep the environment clean and healthy, so it is with recycling small electronics and ink cartridges. You’ll enjoy the earth-friendly option of recycling the small, discardable cartridges with Planet Green. Refilling the cartridges offers more choices to consumers seeking ink for their printers.

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