Batteries, even those containing mercury, are still thrown in landfills. The call to recycle is one that everyone has answered at some point. Recycling can extend to more than just paper, plastic and aluminum. It can also include batteries as most can be recycled. Lead-acid car batteries, rechargeable batteries, alkaline, and button batteries can all be recycled.
When recycled, batteries can be considered a great source of metal. In the state of California, batteries are not to be thrown out in the regular trash because they are considered hazardous waste and are to be recycled. A survey in 2001 in California showed that of 507,259,000 batteries, less than 0.55% of those were recycled before The California Universal Waste Rule was enacted which then made them hazardous waste. Batteries should have more of a chance than being thrown in the garbage. Recycling centers report that if a steady stream of batteries were to be received, sorted by battery chemistry, and available at no charge, then recycling batteries would be profitable. Preparation and transportation could add to the cost.
All batteries can be recognized as single use or rechargeable batteries and are treated separately when recycled. When batteries are recycled, the combustible materials, like the plastics, are removed first from the outer case. Gases are then sent to a plant’s gas scrubber to have pollutants removed. After this, the batteries are cleaned cells that have valuable metals inside them. The cells then get chopped into small pieces. The pieces get heated so the metals melt. Any nonmetals get burned off and removed. The alloys that are in the batteries settle according to their weights and then get skimmed off. At that point the recycling is complete.
Recycling batteries takes a large amount of energy. It takes six to ten times the amount of energy to obtain the metals from recycling batteries than it would through other ways. In North America, some recycling centers are paid for batteries according to their weight. The financial return depends on the exact metal used.
If you would like to recycle a battery, check with local recycling authority first. Call2recycle.org has a search for a local recycling center under the battery recycling section of their website. Usually the recycling center has a certain protocol for turning in batteries. After that, drop off the batteries and feel good about your contribution to the planet!