When it comes to proper recycling and waste management, batteries have continued to remain an enigma to most. Many understand that these energizing little structures are composed of chemicals that could be dangerous if exposed to an open landfill. Unfortunately, this hasn’t resulted in proper recycling, rather, we’ve only begun to see a steady increase in comically stuffed drawers filled to the brim with discarded batteries. Luckily, we’re here to dispel the confusion and confirm once and for all that batteries can be recycled!
Now that that’s been cleared up, where do different types of batteries fall on the “do or do not recycle” spectrum? Why are batteries recycled in the first place? Where should you go to drop off the stash of batteries you’ve been hoarding since you were a child? Read on for answers to those and many other battery recycling questions!
While many variations of batteries do exist, most if not all household variants can be boiled down to either primary (single use) batteries, or secondary (rechargeable) batteries. Fortunately, both of these batteries can and should be recycled.
Single use batteries are produced on a much greater scale than their rechargeable counterparts and there abundance and cheap price point make them much more common amongst a home’s load of recyclables. Rechargeable, on the other hand, provide much longer durability and make up a smaller percentage of waste. Regardless of the battery type however, law requires the public to provide opportunities to recycle them responsibly.
If paper and metal can be re-purposed, what about batteries? While batteries aren’t necessarily completely reformed after being recycled, there are a number of valuable materials that can be derived from your classic single use or rechargeable battery. In fact, many recycling plants can recoup up to 86% of an alkaline battery for reuse. But where exactly do those recovered materials go? The answers might actually surprise you!
Starting with the metal, the 25% of the battery composed of steel can actually be re-purposed for the production of new steel and batteries. The small amount of paper and plastic found in them can also be used as raw materials in an energy conversion treatment. From there, the zinc, magnesium, and potassium, found in alkaline batteries can be utilized as a wonderfully potent micro nutrient fertilizer for crops like corn.
If you’ve gone your whole life isolating your involuntary battery collection to a few forgotten drawer, hearing that it can be repurposed for so many different impressive feats can be quite surprising! Of course, the last thing you want is to leap out the door and toss your batteries just anywhere. If you do plan on giving back to Mother Nature, always make sure you take your batteries to a trusted recycling depot.