Monthly Archives: June 2013

What can we do with spent batteries?

Today, batteries have become a common power source for many household and industrial applications.

There are two types of batteries: primary batteries (disposable batteries), which are designed to be used once and discarded. These are most commonly used in portable devices that have low current drain, used only intermittently, or well away from an alternative power source, such as in alarm and communication circuits where other electric power is only intermittently available. Common types of disposable batteries include zinc–carbon batteries and alkaline batteries.

And secondary batteries (rechargeable batteries), which are designed to be recharged and used for multiple times. Batteries of this type include lead–acid battery, nickel–cadmium (Ni-Cd), nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH), lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel–zinc (Ni-Zn).

Approximately 160 000 tonnes of consumer batteries, 190 000 tonnes of industrial batteries and 800 000 tonnes of vehicle batteries are sold in the EU every year, however, till 2002, half of the portable batteries sold in the EU were sent for final disposal in landfills or were incinerated, instead of being recycled.

Since several hundred thousand tonnes of industrial and portable batteries and accumulators are placed on the Community market every year, a wide range of metals are used, from mercury, lead and cadmium to nickel, copper, zinc, manganese and lithium.Collecting and recycling old batteries prevents these substances from getting into the environment and saves energy and natural resources.

Disposing of the waste from these products pollutes the atmosphere (in the case of incineration) and contaminates ground-cover and water (in the case of landfill or burial). Through appropriate rules it will be possible to reduce the environmental pollution from this waste. In addition, recycling the waste enables the recovery of some precious metals like nickel, cobalt and silver.

The most popular used batteries for power tools are Ni-cd, Ni-MH and Li-ion batteries. Usually lead-acid automotive batteries are recycled more readily than others (nearly 90% are recycled), but now, other types, such as alkaline and rechargeable mentioned before, can also be recycled, which will hep to reduce soil contamination and water pollution.

To ensure that a high proportion of spent batteries are recycled, the government must take whatever measures are needed (including economic instruments) to promote and maximize separate waste collections and prevent batteries being thrown away as unsorted municipal refuse. They have to make arrangements enabling end-users to discard spent batteries at collection points in their vicinity and have them taken back at no charge by the producers. Collection rates of at least 25% and 45% have to be reached by 26 September 2012 and 26 September 2016 respectively according to the directive in 2006.

As a minimum, treatment must include removal of all fluids and acids in EU. Batteries must be treated and stored (even if only temporarily) in sites with impermeable surfaces and weatherproof covering, or in suitable containers

To achieve this goal, it must be possible to remove batteries readily and safely. It is for Member States in EU to ensure that manufacturers design their appliances accordingly.
Also, Member States in EU have to ensure that, from 26 September 2009, batteries that have been collected are treated and recycled using the best available techniques. Recycling must exclude energy recovery. For example, a group named ‘Gravita ‘ in India is committed to the employment of environment friendly technologies in solutions for the used Lead-Acid Battery Recycling and Battery Manufacturing Industries, covering Secondary Lead Smelting, Lead Refining, Lead Alloying & Lead Oxides Manufacturing and Lead Pollution Control. They invent Air Filtration, Bag House Filtration equipments, both of them are important aspects of Battery Recycling procedure without which it is not feasible to carry on the process in Green concept.

As part of the program ‘Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment ‘(WEEE), the directive in 1999 was only applied to batteries containing mercury, lead or cadmium, and excluded “bottom cells”. However, the 2006/66/EC directive aims to reduce the threats posed to human health and the environment by batteries that contain harmful materials. It represents a significant step up from the previous 1991 directive by making producers and importers fully responsible for the processing of waste batteries. Then in 2008, the new EU battery directive came into force is set to change how spent batteries are processed a national level.

End-users are to be informed in various ways:

1. Through campaigns covering, among other things, the potential effects on the environment and human health of the substances used in batteries and accumulators, and the collection and recycling arrangements at the end-users’ disposal;
2. Being directly informed by distributors that they can discard waste batteries and accumulators at sales points;
3. Visible, legible and indelible markings on batteries, accumulators and battery packs with the following information: the symbol of the crossed-out wheeled bin (in Annex II to the Directive); the capacity of the accumulator or the portable battery; the chemical symbols Hg, Cd and Pb if the batteries, accumulators or button cells contain over 0.0005% mercury, over 0.002% cadmium or over 0.004% lead. If the battery, accumulator or battery pack are too small, this information appears on the packaging.

Some municipalities will accept these batteries (as well as older, more toxic ones) at household hazardous waste facilities, from which they will most likely be sent elsewhere to be processed and recycled as components in new batteries.

Other options abound, such as the mail-order service, Battery Solutions website, which will recycle your spent batteries at a cost of 85 cents per pound. To find a company near you where you can drop off your old batteries for recycling, check out the comprehensive national database at the website. Meanwhile, the national chain, Batteries Plus, is happy to take back disposable batteries for recycling at any of its 255 retail stores coast-to-coast.
Especially, consumers should note that any old batteries they may find buried in their closets that were made before 1997—when Congress mandated a widespread mercury phase-out in batteries of all types—should most surely be recycled and not discarded with the trash, as they may contain as much as 10 times the mercury of newer versions.
Furthermore, they can find out where to drop off old rechargeable batteries (and even old cell phones) by calling RBRC’s hot-line or by visiting the online drop location finder at Also, most Radio Shack stores will take back rechargeable batteries and deliver them to RBRC free-of-charge. RBRC then processes the batteries via a thermal recovery technology that reclaims metals such as nickel, iron, cadmium, lead and cobalt, re-purposing them for use in new batteries.

Now we all know that the widespread use of batteries has created many environmental concerns, especially toxic metal pollution. Battery manufacture consumes resources and often involves hazardous chemicals. Used batteries also contribute to electronic waste. Some areas now have battery recycling services available to recover some of the materials from used batteries as we mentioned above. Batteries may be harmful or fatal if swallowed. Recycling or proper disposal prevents dangerous elements (such as lead, mercury, and cadmium) found in some types of batteries from entering the environment. The Battery Directive of the European Union has already come up with some requirements, in addition to requiring increased recycling of batteries, and promoting research on improved battery recycling methods. In accordance with this directive all batteries to be sold within the EU must be marked with the “collection symbol” (A crossed out wheeled bin). This must cover at least 3% of the surface of prismatic batteries and 1.5% of the surface of cylindrical batteries. All packaging must be marked likewise.

Except EU, in United States, Americans purchase nearly three billion batteries annually, and about 179,000 tons of those end up in landfills across the country. The Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act of 1996 banned the sale of mercury-containing batteries, enacted uniform labeling requirements for rechargeable batteries, and required that rechargeable batteries be easily removable. California, and New York City prohibit the disposal of rechargeable batteries in solid waste, and along with Maine require recycling of cell phones. The rechargeable battery industry has nationwide recycling programs in the United States and Canada now, with drop off points at local retailers.

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