Understanding the Recycling Process for Batteries

///Understanding the Recycling Process for Batteries

Everyone should do his or her part to protect the environment and find ways to keep batteries from adding to the growing landfills. From AA household batteries to starter car batteries, there are recycling solutions and ways to reduce the need for batteries. If you love the Earth, you need to learn more about the recycling process for batteries.

Aluminum Can

Why Are Batteries bad for the Environment?

Batteries often contain a variety of harmful heavy metals and chemicals. When these metals and chemicals end up in the landfill, they increase the risk of water pollution and soil contamination. The toxic nickel, mercury, and cadmium found in some types of batteries are also extremely dangerous to humans, the environment and wildlife.

How Can You Reduce Your Need for Batteries?

Proper storage can help single-use batteries maintain their fully charged state, maximizing the battery life of standard AA, AAA, and 9-volt batteries. By preventing a discharge during storage, the battery lasts longer and requires replacement less often.

The recommended storage temperature is 59 degrees Fahrenheit. However, colder temperatures slow the chemical reaction that causes batteries to lose their charge. To reduce the loss of charge, store batteries in the refrigerator.

You should also remove batteries from electronics and remotes that are not frequently used. Keeping these batteries in the devices at room temperature slowly lowers the charge levels and may cause corrosion.

Another solution for reducing battery usage is to find alternatives to battery-powered devices and appliances. Replace a battery-powered flashlight with a hand-cranked flashlight or replace battery-powered power tools with corded versions.

What Is the Best Way to Reuse Batteries?

Car battery with green recycle sign.Most rechargeable batteries can be reused many times. This includes the rechargeable batteries commonly found in smartphones and laptops along with lead-acid batteries used in vehicles and heavy equipment. However, these products all eventually lose the ability to hold a charge.

Maintenance and proper use may extend the lifespan of the battery and allow more uses before recycling. Along with storing your batteries in a cool location, you may need to partially discharge the battery.

Fully charged lithium-ion rechargeable batteries lose part of their charge capacity when they remain unused. If you do not frequently use the battery, store it with no more than 40% charge remaining. Nickel-based batteries can be stored at any charge level.

Lead acid batteries are often discarded prematurely and using proper maintenance may allow more uses. Avoid fully discharging a lead-acid car battery by remembering to turn off the interior lights and not leaving your car running while you let it warm up.

Deep-cycle lead-acid batteries can last much longer by refilling each power cell with distilled water. However, the average user may be unwilling to perform this extra maintenance step, especially if it requires drilling through the top of each cell.

Can You Recycle Old Batteries?

Car battery with green recycle sign.You cannot reuse single-use batteries and rechargeable batteries inevitably lose their charge capacity. At some point, every battery becomes unusable.

The recycling process depends on the type of battery you need to dispose of. Knowing the category and type of battery allows you to choose the proper recycling method. Batteries typically belong to one of the following categories:

  • Single-use batteries (AA, AAA, 9-volt, etc.)
  • Button cell batteries (batteries for hearing aids and watches)
  • Rechargeable batteries (batteries for cell phones, laptops, and power tools)
  • Lead-acid batteries (batteries for cars, boats, and large machinery)

California is the only state with laws requiring the proper disposal of single-use household batteries such as AA or AAA batteries. While it is not illegal to throw batteries away in other regions, everyone can find ways to recycle his or her old batteries or keep them out of the landfills.

Car battery with green recycle sign.Alkaline AA, AAA, and 9-volt single-use batteries have low metal content, which makes recycling less common. You may have trouble finding a recycling program that accepts alkaline batteries as some facilities charge a fee to recycle them.

Lithium single-use batteries are designed to last longer than alkaline versions. However, lithium batteries contain heavy metals that are dangerous to the environment. As with alkaline batteries, you may not have a local recycling program. However, there are mail-in recycling programs that will accept lithium batteries.

Car battery with green recycle sign.Mercury is used in the small disc-like batteries found in watches, hearing aids, and tiny electronics. If you want to keep mercury out of the landfills, your local recycling center likely accepts button cell batteries. If local recycling is not an option, you can also find mail-in programs.
laptop battery

Most of today’s laptop batteries are high density Li-Ion accumulators. Material, that can be efficiently recycled.

Most rechargeable batteries either contain lithium ion or nickel metal hydride. Both types of batteries are commonly used in rechargeable electronics, smartphones, laptops, and cameras. This also includes rechargeable AA and AAA batteries.

All types of rechargeable batteries contain heavy metals that do not belong in the landfill. Due to the environmental dangers of these metals, it is easier to find recycling options. In many regions, local retailers that sell electronics will take back old rechargeable batteries for recycling.

Car battery with green recycle sign.Lead-acid batteries include starter batteries for vehicles and deep-cycle batteries commonly used in heavy machinery and equipment. In many cities and states, it is against the law to dispose of a lead acid battery in a landfill.

Several states require businesses that sell lead-acid batteries to recycle old batteries brought in by customers. Besides taking the battery to a local retailer, many waste management companies accept lead-acid batteries.

What Should You Do Next to Start Recycling Batteries?

Car battery with green recycle sign.If you want to do your part to keep batteries out of the landfills, you should first try to reduce your need for batteries. Remember to look for corded power tools and crank-powered devices whenever possible. Batteries should also be stored in cool locations to avoid discharge.
Switching from standard single-use batteries to rechargeable AA or AAA batteries allows you to reuse batteries for most household electronics. Following the maintenance recommendations for lead-acid batteries prolongs their life and provides more reuses.
After reducing and reusing your batteries, you will eventually need to dispose of them. Start by looking for local recycling programs through your current trash collection business. For lead-acid batteries and rechargeable batteries, ask the retailer where you purchased the battery if they have recycling options. If you cannot find a recycling solution for your batteries, look for a suitable mail-in program.
Most batteries contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals that harm the environment. You can avoid adding to the harm by reducing, reusing, and recycling your batteries.

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2018-08-31T08:13:19+00:00By |Categories: Batteries, Recycling Material|1 Comment

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  1. Marilyn Trapper December 27, 2019 at 2:22 am - Reply

    Hmm is anyone else having problems with the images on this blog loading? I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.|

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