BATTERIES

BATTERIES

Considering their share in the overall volume of waste, spent batteries are not necessarily a problem, but they make up for it by the danger they pose. Many batteries contain heavy metals like mercury, nickel, cadmium, and lead, but also acids; all these can be very harmful to the soil and groundwater; mercury is considered so toxic that its use in batteries has been banned almost everywhere in the world. (Wristwatch batteries are the only exception; the maximum amount of mercury allowed is up to 2% of the weight of the entire battery.)
 
How are they recycled?
 
That depends on the type of battery. Car and motorcycle batteries, which consist of lead electrodes submerged in an acid solution, are recycled by first neutralizing the acid with caustic soda, a chemical reaction that generates pure water; the battery is then broken to pieces and the plastic casing is separated from the lead, which is subsequently cleaned and melted.
 
Alkaline batteries (the single use kind found in remote controls, photo cameras, torchlights, etc.) are 100% recyclable, by mechanically separating their components.
Lithium-Ion batteries are rechargeable, 100% recyclable, and can be found in laptops, professional photo cameras, etc. They are recycled by mechanically separating plastics from the metal parts.
 
Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd) and Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries. These are also commonly used in small electronic devices like remote controls. The former are single use and have been mostly superseded by alkaline batteries, while NiMH batteries are rechargeable. They are 100% recyclable by separating the plastics from the metal components. These (mostly nickel, iron, manganese, and chromium) are melted; they can be further separated thanks to their different melting points.
 
Lithium batteries are recycled by breaking them into pieces and submerging them into a chemical solution to neutralize the acid inside, and then the metals are recovered. The remaining solution is filtered to recover the lithium, which is then used to make other batteries.
 
What are the advantages of recycling?
 
Almost all types of batteries can be fully recycled, the main purpose being to avoid pollution and recover the materials. By a 2006 Directive, EU member states have agreed to reach a recycling target of at least 45% of all batteries sold until 2016.
 
What can I recycle?
 
Any kind of normal battery, type AA, AAA (the thin ones), etc., regardless of their construction type.
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