Cell Phone Battery Recycling Demystifying Facts and Best Practices

Figuring out what to do with all the used batteries in your life is no easy task. Many battery types contain mercury, which is a known carcinogen, so it’s important to dispose of them properly.


Figuring out what to do with all the used batteries in your life is no easy task. Many battery types contain mercury, a known carcinogen. So it’s important to dispose of batteries properly when you’re finished with them.

Rule number 1 is NEVER put batteries of any kind in your household recycling bin. While they do contain metal, some batteries pose serious risks and lead to explosions and fires in trucks and at recycling facilities.

So how do you dispose of batteries responsibly? That depends on the battery chemistry.

Traditional single-use batteries (those that can’t be re-charged) are the easiest. These are your everyday AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt batteries and their “chemistry” is either alkaline or lithium (not to be confused with lithium-ion, which is a whole different animal!). Both alkaline and lithium batteries are safe to throw in the trash.

Lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries are rechargeable and are considered to be the backbone of mobile electronics (cell phones, laptops) and cordless power tools. They do not contain mercury, but they are on the trash and recycling industry’s “most unwanted” list because the risk of fire is so high. Click here to find a recycling dropoff location.

Other common household rechargeable batteries include nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cad) and nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH). Ni-Cads are an economical battery but contain cadmium, which is toxic. Ni-MH batteries perform well in high-drain devices and are cadmium free, but they are expensive. Both types are used in cordless tools, cordless phones, digital cameras, and two-way radios. Find recycling locations here.

Mercury and rechargeable batteries fall under the federal Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Act and thus can be recycled for free through national product stewardship programs like Call2Recycle. This is an organization funded by battery manufacturers that collects and recycles or safely disposes of applicable batteries.

Unlike the rechargeable battery program, there is currently no national stewardship law for free recycling of single-use batteries such as AAA, AA, 9V, C, or D cell – except in Vermont. These batteries do not contain mercury, so when they are fully drained, throw them in the trash but not your recycling bin.

Safely Recycling Batteries: Best Practices and Environmental Impact

Batteries are everywhere in today’s world, powering everything from our phones to electric cars. They’re essential, but we must also consider what happens when they’re no longer useful. Throwing them away isn’t the best idea because it’s not great for the environment. This article looks at why it’s so vital to recycle batteries, what they’re made of, and how recycling them helps our planet.

SL Recycling, South Wales’ leading independent metal recycler, is here to make battery recycling straightforward and eco-friendly. Our team specialises in managing and recycling waste, including batteries, ensuring they’re handled responsibly. We cater to various sectors, offering customised solutions to meet diverse needs.

Interested in learning more about how SL Recycling can help your battery recycling needs? Click here to get in touch with us.

Can you Recycle Batteries?

You can recycle batteries, but it’s different for every kind. Batteries come in all shapes and sizes, like the ones in your TV remote or your car, and each kind needs its own way of recycling. Different types, such as regular alkaline batteries, rechargeable lithium-ion, or car batteries, each have a unique recycling method. These methods help reuse valuable materials and ensure the not-so-good stuff is dealt with safely. Take car batteries, for example – they’re mainly lead-acid and super recyclable. In fact, more than 95% of these batteries get recycled in the UK and many other places.

Throwing batteries in the bin can be bad for the environment. If batteries end up in landfills, they can leak toxic chemicals, which can get into the soil and water. This isn’t good for plants, animals, or us because these chemicals, like cadmium and lead, can build up in living things and cause health issues. Plus, lithium-ion batteries, the kind in many rechargeable devices, can even catch fire if they’re damaged or not stored right. So, not recycling batteries can hurt nature and our health a lot.

Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling: The Complete Guide

Think your old batteries don’t matter? Each one recycled saves a chunk of our planet. Join the charge—recycle your lithium-ion batteries today!

Used batteries have been a problem for decades from both household and industrial waste perspectives. While battery technology has changed a lot, even the most advanced rechargeable lithium-ion batteries may still contain materials that are considered hazardous.

It’s not only environmental pollution that is a problem. During the end-of-life stage of any modern electronic device, poor handling, storage, and disposal could increase the risk of fire or poisoning.

A much bigger problem is that the real “battery crisis” is still ahead of us. And we’re not just talking about li-Ion power banks for your phone. Disposing of huge numbers of batteries from electric vehicles is going to be the real challenge — one we should master using the recycling technology we have today. Fortunately, lithium-ion battery recycling is starting to become a widespread practice. Here’s how you can do your part.

Can You Recycle Lithium-Ion Batteries?

Yes, lithium-ion batteries are recyclable, but the process is a bit complicated. This might be the reason why you’re struggling to find local recycling centers equipped to handle them.

The first challenge to lithium battery recycling is that you can’t handle those batteries like any other electronic waste.

To put it simply, mixing a lithium battery with regular paper recycling is a bad idea. They can get hot or spark a fire if damaged or improperly handled. These incidents are not common, but they’re happening more as these batteries become more widespread.

lithium-ion battery for EV

Properly recycling lithium-ion batteries is essential for safety and environmental protection. These batteries aren’t simply reusable; they must undergo a specific recycling process to manage their unique risks.

In addition, lithium battery recycling reduces the need for new mineral extraction, which is always a win for the environment.

There has been a debate regarding whether lithium batteries can be 100% recycled.

While not everything in a lithium battery is recoverable, the majority of the materials can be recycled. The technology is improving, and recycling methods are becoming more efficient, aiming to increase this percentage. Also, you should know that you cannot recycle lithium batteries indefinitely.

The materials recovered from lithium-ion batteries, like metals, can be recycled multiple times. However, each cycle might reduce the purity of the material. Researchers are working on making the recycling loop as endless as possible.

Another thing you should note is that you can NEVER throw lithium batteries in the trash bin.

Lithium batteries need special handling because they can be dangerous if damaged. They can’t be treated like regular recyclables because they could catch fire or release harmful chemicals if not processed correctly.

Background on Lithium Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are a type of commonly used rechargeable batteries that vary in size and design, but work in very similar ways. A battery is made of one or more cells, with each individual cell functioning to produce electricity.

The different types of lithium-ion batteries are named for the chemicals used inside their cells, particularly the cathode chemistry. There are many variations of lithium-ion batteries, but some common types include:

  • Lithium cobalt oxide.
  • Lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide.
  • Lithium iron phosphate.

Lithium-ion batteries of different chemistries will differ in how much total energy they can provide in one charge, how quickly that energy is released, how stable the battery is, how quickly it can be recharged, and how many total times it can be charged and discharged, among other variables. Because of these differences, certain chemistries are commonly used for specific applications. For example, lithium cobalt oxide chemistries are common in consumer electronics while lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide chemistries are often used for electric vehicle batteries.

Although the mix of materials used for different chemistries of lithium-ion batteries varies, common materials used are:

  • Lithium.
  • Nickel.
  • Cobalt.
  • Manganese.
  • Graphite.
  • Iron.
  • Copper and aluminum foils.
  • Electrolyte that is usually flammable.

Lithium-ion batteries come in various cell, module, and pack sizes, with multiple cells making up a module and multiple modules making a battery pack. Battery packs for applications needing more energy such as an electric vehicle may require hundreds or even thousands of cells packaged together as multiple modules, though there is wide variety in how battery packs are designed in the industry. The term “battery” may be used to describe a cell—a single energy-producing unit—as well as a module or an entire pack.

Lithium-Ion Batteries as Waste

EPA is planning to propose new rules to improve the management and recycling of end-of-life solar panels and lithium batteries. Find out more.

Despite all these variations, EPA determined that most lithium-ion batteries on the market are likely to be hazardous wastes when they are disposed of because they may catch fire or explode if not handled carefully. Most lithium-ion batteries when discarded would likely be considered ignitable and reactive hazardous wastes (carrying the waste codes D001 and D003, respectively). Please note that lithium-ion batteries in consumer electronics and electric vehicles are generally safe if purchased from a trustworthy manufacturer and used appropriately. However, fires at end of life are common and mismanagement and damage to batteries make them more likely at that stage.

Recycling used lithium-ion batteries (and the devices that contain them) will help address emerging issues associated with the clean energy transition and prevent problems caused by inappropriate battery disposal. End-of-life lithium-ion batteries contain valuable critical minerals needed in the production of new batteries. Clean energy technologies like renewable energy storage systems and electric vehicle batteries will demand large amounts of these minerals, and recycling used lithium-ion batteries could help meet that demand.

Sean Teer manages Envision, a not-for-profit turning plastic bottle tops that would otherwise go to landfill into prosthetic hands and arms. Based in Werribee, the project aims to change the lives of as many disadvantaged people as possible in countries like Cambodia and India. Supported by the global Coca‑Cola Foundation, Melbourne based not-for-profit Envision is in the process of turning bottle caps into mobility aids, or artificial plastic limbs.

Achievements:

  • Set up and ran Progressive Personnel – First centrally based employer marketing service of its type in Australia for Disability Services
  • Author of a number of Articles and book on Job Seeking
  • National Finalist, Best Supervisor Work for the Dole Prime Minister’s Award 2005
  • Author of Self Development Book – Master the Art of Happiness
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