Battery Recycling: Help Your Environment

If batteries are not disposed of appropriately, the potentially harmful metals and chemicals they contain, such as nickel cadmium, alkaline, mercury, nickel metal hydride, and lead acid, can contaminate the surrounding environment.

For instance, when batteries that contain cadmium are thrown away in landfills, they will eventually break down and release the poisonous substance, which then has the potential to seep into water supplies, thereby posing significant risks to the population’s overall health.

Because of this, recycling batteries has taken on such a significant role because it not only helps to reduce pollution but also conserves resources.

The Procedure For Recycling

To begin, the batteries that will be recycled are separated into their respective chemistries, such as nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal-hydride, lithium, and alkaline, among others. In the next step of the recycling process, a gas-fired thermal oxidizer is used to remove the combustible material, which includes things like plastics and insulation.

Most recycling plants are equipped with scrubbers, which are used to remove pollutants by neutralizing the gases produced by the thermal oxidizer. This results in creating clean, naked cells containing precious metal content.

After the batteries have been hacked into smaller pieces, the metal within them is heated to the point where it becomes liquid. A slag arm removes the black slag that is left behind when non-metallic substances are burned, and the various alloys that settle according to weight are skimmed off the top of the liquid. Some plants pour the liquid metals directly into containers weighing 65 pounds or ‘hogs’ weighing 2000 pounds without separating them on the premises. These containers are then transported to metal recovery plants, which produce nickel, chromium, and iron re-melt alloy, which are then used to make other metal products.

Regulations In the United States

The US Congress passed the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act in 1996. It says that regulated batteries, such as Ni-CD batteries and sealed lead-acid batteries, must follow the following rules:

1. Able to be removed easily from consumer products so that they can be recovered and recycled with greater ease.

2. Include on the label the battery’s chemical composition, the symbol of “three chasing arrows,” and a phrase that instructs users on how to recycle or dispose of the battery appropriately.

3. Ensure that all states follow the same guidelines for collection, storage, and transportation.

4. Stop using certain types of batteries that contain mercury and do so gradually.

The United States Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) was established in 1994 as a not-for-profit, public service organization with the mission of assisting in and promoting the recycling of portable rechargeable batteries such as Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH), Lithium Ion (Li-ion), and Small Sealed Lead. The organization initially stood for the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation of the United States.

Users of rechargeable power sources are also informed about the advantages of recycling rechargeable batteries and the ease with which it can be done. But the RBRC will only recycle batteries if they have the RBRC Battery Recycling Seal on them. Better solutions can be obtained by contacting RBRC at the email address “licensee@rbrc.com” by those who produce, market, or collect rechargeable batteries or products that use them. Additional Contact Information:

Telephone: 678-419-9990 Fax: 678-419-9986 Address: 1000 Parkwood Circle Suite 450 Atlanta, Georgia 30339

Recent Developments

The process of reducing the amount of mercury found in batteries, which had already begun in 1984, is still being carried out today. For instance, the amount of mercury that is found in batteries like those that contain alkaline has been reduced by approximately 97 percent, and newer models may contain about one-tenth the amount of mercury that was previously included in the typical alkaline battery, or they may have no added mercury at all.

Since technologies such as silver-oxide and zinc-air button batteries contain less mercury than mercuric-oxide batteries, the latter are beginning to be phased out and replaced. There are now many options available for replacement batteries, including heavy-duty carbon-zinc batteries that do not contain mercury. The nickel that is included in nickel-cadmium batteries can be recovered through reprocessing, and there is also research on cadmium-free nickel and nickel-hydride systems.

Most nickel-cadmium batteries are hermetically sealed in appliances at the moment; however, changes are being made to regulations that will make it easier to retrieve and recycle nickel-cadmium batteries. Currently, the majority of nickel-cadmium batteries are used in appliances.

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