How to recycle batteries properly

How many gifts will you give or receive this Christmas which will include a battery?  Can you think of a room at your place of work or at home which doesn’t have a battery in it?  And most importantly, do you know how to recycle batteries properly?

In the UK we throw away about 620 million batteries a year, and each of us gets through about one a month. What's in a battery?  Toxic materials including lead, cadmium, zinc, lithium and mercury.

How faithfully do you take your batteries to a recycling point?  Do you ever wonder what happens to them then?  You should ask, challenge, maybe even demand to know what happens to them, to be sure your planet is being cared for properly.

The process for battery recycling in UK is not as straightforward as you may think. Each battery chemistry (alkaline/zinc carbon; nickel cadmium (NiCad;) nickel metal hydride (NiMH;) lithium ion rechargeable (Li-ion;) single use lithium and button cells (Mercury and Silver Oxide)) requires a different recycling process.

Whilst the UK has a large number of Approved Battery Treatment Operators, the disposal facilities offering pyrometallurgical (where batteries are placed in a furnace and treated thermally), and hydrometallurgical (where batteries are treated chemically to separate the materials that make them up) are not available commercially in the UK. Most batteries will find their way to huge smelting plants in Northern Europe, the USA or the Far East for disposal.

You might not like the idea of waste being transported to be recycled but this is the only option at the moment if we are to save resources and protect the environment. What are the alternatives?  A moments thought about all the issues – mining, manufacture, pollution – tells you that recycling has to be the best route.

The single most important step that we can all make to reduce the environmental impact of battery consumption is to a) minimise the use of batteries in the first instance and b) collect all used batteries for recycling.

We are often asked at Cawleys about how to recycle batteries properly and we would be pleased to help you explore the options at your place of work.

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