Why should we recycle household batteries?

Batteries are small, convenient and mobile powerhouses all throughout their functional lifetime. But even after they have spent all of their stored charge, used batteries still have significant value to society. A battery can be recycled almost entirely and put back into the manufacturing of new batteries or as a substitute for raw materials an indefinite number of times. So, it is absolutely shocking to state that the majority of used batteries, especially the smaller handheld battery types, are either abandoned on shelves and in drawers of households or make their way into landfills in Australia. Some recent studies have shown that only 4% of all used handheld batteries get recycled in Australia with the remaining 96%, which amount to many millions of individual batteries, being disposed of in landfills.

Used batteries should never be discarded along with organic household waste. In fact, even if handheld batteries are separated and added to the same collection of solid recyclable waste such as aluminium, glass, paper and certain plastics, most of the common recycling plants which will later have to process these articles may not have the equipment or the technology to efficiently recycle all of the various types of used handheld batteries. The same applies for other kinds of domestic electronic-waste products, such as bulbs and small household appliances. These articles require special equipment which common plants just may not possess.

As far as possible, used batteries should be segregated and handed over to specialised recycling plants dedicated to dealing with these types of e-waste. When batteries are properly recycled by these plants, a wide array of materials ranging from heavy metals such as lead, manganese, zinc, nickel and iron to the relatively safer set of materials such as paper, carbon and plastics can be recovered in a safe manner.

Historically, the toxic mercury metal was once widely used in batteries due to its ability to hold a steady voltage while allowing for the creation of large capacity cells. This no longer is the case, as modern alkaline and zinc-carbon handheld batteries have mostly replaced mercury based cells as a safer alternative. Even though most of the batteries being produced today are no longer as harmful to the environment as they were in the past, used batteries still contain some degree of heavy metals which can leach into the surroundings and cause environmental contamination when disposed of in landfills.

That is why recycling used batteries can not only cut down on the negative environmental impact from toxic heavy metals, but it can also cut down on economic losses by putting all the non-renewable metallic elements back into production and away from human exposure. The Alkaline & Zinc Carbon battery recycling plant developed and operated by ReSourc in Melbourne (www.resourc.com.au/battery-recycling) is one of the specialised recycling plants. Being the only plant in Australia capable of processing single use batteries, it efficiently recycles and reuses more than 85% of the batteries input, to safely retrieve reusable elements from all single use household batteries.