We all must do everything we can to recycle batteries. Batteries of all types are chock full of deadly chemicals, like mercury, lead and lithium and heavy metals. Luckily, the majority of most of the types of batteries we use in the workplace and at home are recyclable.
Unfortunately, while it’s easy for companies and homeowners to collect batteries for recycling, they can’t go in the regular blue box because they are considered hazardous waste.
Instead, you should place batteries in a separate container and take them to a municipal recycling facility. Many municipalities, including Toronto, will pick up your batteries free of charge for recycling by appointment if you have collected between 10 and 50 kilograms of batteries.
5 Battery Recycling Processes
Once they are at the recycling centre, batteries are separated because the battery recycling process is different for each type of battery.
- Alkaline Batteries – Found in many small electric devices in the familiar AAA, AA, C, D, and 9V configurations, alkaline batteries, including alkaline zinc-air and alkaline zinc-carbon, are 99% recyclable. They are separated into three parts for recycling, including steel, paper and plastic, and a zinc and manganese concentrate.
- Lithium-Ion Batteries – These are the batteries used mainly in notebook computers, tablet computers and smartphones. For recycling, they are separated in a mechanical, oxygen-free process into three sets of materials: a cobalt and lithium salt concentrate; steel; and copper, aluminum and plastic.
- Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) & Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) Batteries – Nickel-cadmium batteries have been around for almost 100 years and were the rechargeable battery of choice for small electronics. Due to their toxicity, NiCds were replaced in the 1990s by NiMH. Their components must be smelted before they can be recycled. They are separated into plastic and metal components before smelting.
- Lithium Batteries – These batteries are often hammered in the recycling process to expose the contents. After the plastic coverings are removed, the batteries are submerged in a caustic water solution to neutralize the electrolytes. Metals are then separated and recycled before carbon and lithium are recovered from the remaining material.
- Mercury Batteries – Mercury is one of the most toxic substances used in batteries, so their recycling process is highly controlled. Recovered mercury is reused in other batteries, dentistry and fluorescent lighting. Plastics and metals are also recovered and recycled according to their uses.
Papersavers is best known as a document shredding and document storage company, but we can also help your company institute a battery recycling program. We’ll supply as many containers as you need and pick them up on a regular schedule or by appointment. And it’s free to try the service for 30 days to see if it’s the right fit for your business.
To learn more about recycling in the workplace, check out our post “5 Tips for a More Eco-Friendly Office”.