More than 15 billion units of a wide range batteries types are used annually. This includes batteries in laptops, mobile phones, power tools, remotes, watches, cameras and many more.
What is Battery Recycling?
The practice of reusing and reprocessing of batteries to reduce the number of battery being disposed as waste is known as Battery Recycling.
Why Recycle Batteries?
Batteries are made from various resources and chemicals. Some of these materials are toxic, while the others are valuable. When thrown away and not recycled, they most probably end up in landfills where toxic materials leak into the ground causing soil and water pollution or might get incinerated with other domestic waste causing air pollution.
Most of the batteries that are disposed or thrown away are of the following types:
- Button (Mercury)
- Carbon Zinc
- Lithium Ion
- Nickel Cadmium
- Nickel Metal Hydride
- Lead Acid
- Silver Oxide
These comprise of toxic materials like :
- Acid - (Respiratory Problems; Corrosive to Eye & Skin)
- Cadmium - (Carcinogen; Affects Kidneys; Softens Bones)
- Chromium - (Damages Liver & Kidneys; Causes Bronchial Maladies or Asthmatic Bronchitis; Causes Lung Cancer)
- Lead- (Affects Kidneys & Reproductive System; Impairs Mental Development in Children; Fatal in High Quantity)
- Mercury - (Affects Central Nervous System & Immune System; Damages Kidneys)
Recycling Batteries is therefore a better option :
- It helps reduce pollution.
- Prevents toxic degradation of environment.
- Helps preserve resources.
- Provides raw materials for remaking batteries and other industries such as steel industry or glass industry and many more.
- It also saves energy by reducing the need for raw materials.
How to dispose Batteries properly?
Correctly disposing batteries is the first step in the process of Battery Recycling. Here are some guidelines to help you properly dispose batteries:
- Know about the local laws and directives regarding battery disposal policies.
- Button Batteries should be disposed at Hazardous Waste Collection Sites.
- Similarly, rechargeable Lead-Acid or Nickel Cadmium Batteries should also be disposed at household Hazardous Waste Collection Sites.
- Lithium or Lithium Ion Batteries can be dropped off at nearby Battery Recycling Centers.
- Small to Large Businesses can partner up with local recycling centers to dispose batteries in bulk.
- Car batteries can be dropped off at the retailer for recycling. (Most of the time with some reimbursement)
- E-Waste Collection Centers also are good drop off centers.
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How are Batteries Recycled?
As mentioned earlier, all batteries are recyclable. The degree to which they can be recycled is variable. For instance, lead batteries are 99% recyclable especially due to the value of lead and toxicity levels. Other battery types such as lithium-ion, nickel–cadmium (Ni-Cd), nickel–zinc (Ni-Zn), nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH), and lithium-ion (Li-ion) are also recyclable.
Recycling Lithium Batteries
These batteries have to be recycled carefully due to hazardous nature of its contents. Like others its recycling process involves:
- Crushing - They are hammered (crushed) to release the inner battery components.
- Sorting - Plastic Components are segregated from the other parts.
- Shredding - Inner parts shredded into smaller pieces & the resultant debris is submerged in basic (caustic) water to neutralize the electrolytes.
- Separation - The ferrous and non-ferrous metals are then separated. Clean scrap metals are later used for manufacturing new products or sold to recyclers.
Carbon and Lithium are then retrieved from the remaining solution.
The recovered carbon is recycled while the recovered lithium is reused by converting it into Lithium Carbonate.
Recycling Mercury Batteries
Due to the high level of toxicity, Mercury batteries are handled with great care and recycled through a controlled-temperature process.
The recycling process involves the use of Hydro & Pyro Metallurgical in controlled material extraction environment.
Extracted Materials include:
- Other Metallic Materials
Components like plastics and other metallic materials are recycled normally and the Eliminated Mercury
Eliminated mercury is reused for :
- New Mercury based batteries
- In dental amalgams
- Metric instruments
- Fluorescent lighting
Recycling Lithium Ion, Nickel Metal Hydride, Nickel-Cadmium Batteries
Components of these batteries are 99% reusable.
Recycling process of these batteries is carried out in the following steps :
- High Temperature Metal Reclamation (Smelting) - Recovers Iron, Manganese, Nickel, and Chromium.
The extraction of these metals typically utilizes Hydro & Pyro Metallurgical processes.
Recycling Lead Acid Battery
Lead battery recycling involves five basic steps:
- Crushing: Battery is crushed or broken apart.
- Sorting: The broken pieces including heavy metals and lead are separated from the plastic.
- Sieving: Polypropylene (Plastic) pieces are scooped out and the liquids sieved to only leave the lead and heavy metals.
- Hydro & Pyro Metallurgical Processes: This is the processes used for extracting valuable metals and minerals from their ores.
Recycling Alkaline Zinc Air /Zinc Carbon Batteries
With advanced and innovative mechanical and chemical processes, Alkaline Zinc Air /Zinc Carbon Batteries are 99.9% recycled. Recycled materials sorted into three end products:
- Paper and Plastic
- Zinc and Manganese concentrate.
They are then all taken back to recycling facilities where they are re-used to make new products.
What is Recovered?
The recovered resources from the recycling process are of high value and are useful in many ways across different industries. Most common recovered materials include:
High Quality Ferromanganese Concentrate is recovered from the batteries that can be used by steel Producers.
1MT (one metric tonne) of this concentrate is equivalent to approximately 3MT (three metric tonnes)
Zinc Concentrate with a concetration of over 40 % Zinc is recovered from the recycling process.
This is used by Zinc Smelters or in the Electrolysis Industry.
Most of the recovered can be used for the manufacture of Stainless Steel.
This is mainly recovered form button cells in the form of silver oxide.
Recycled Silver is often used by jewelers.
Cadmium recovered from the batteries is suitable to be used in the manufacture of new Batteries.
This recovered mercury is mainly reused in the making of metric instruments or fluorescent lighting.
It can also be used in dental amalgamations or remaking of other mercury based batteries.
It is important to note that the manufacture of Mercury based batteries has reduced over the years.
Lead is mainly recovered from lead acid batteries found in cars.
Almost all of the recovered lead is used in the manufacture of new Batteries.