How many batteries do you use in your home? There’s the ones in the smoke alarms, a handful in various TV remotes, possibly an alarm clock or two, the control pads for a gaming console need a couple – and that’s just scratching the surface.
The average British household buys 21 batteries a year, including the ones that come built into your phone and your car. That doesn’t sound a lot, but multiply 21 by the number of households and you’ve got somewhere in the region of 600 million batteries. More than half of which end up in the bin, even rechargeable batteries once they have come to the end of their life span.
It’s time to step up and do your bit for the environment. Let’s see why you should recycle your batteries, and how to do it.
600m Sold, Very Few Recycled
Six hundred million is a huge number, but the UK Environment agency don’t think in individual batteries. They think in tonnes.
And the UK was set a target of recycling 45% of portable batteries. Or, in Environment Agency terms, 17,232 tonnes. That figure was missed in 2014, 2015 and 2016. 2017’s figures aren’t yet in, but it’s likely that’s been missed too.
Even though consumers are recycling enough batteries to outweigh nearly three thousand elephants, we’re sending most of our batteries to landfill.
But why is that an issue? If batteries can’t be recharged, surely they’re just trash. Right?
What Could Your Old Batteries Be Re-Used For?
Just because a dead battery can’t be used to power anything doesn’t mean it’s useless. By breaking down the materials used to make a battery, recyclers can reclaim valuable materials that can be used to manufacture new items ranging from paint and plasterboard to metal plating and industrial equipment.
Here’s a breakdown of what your old batteries can do:
Lead Acid Batteries (from your car)
Recycled into: Lead, polypropylene, gypsum
Used for: New batteries, agricultural and industrial products, washing powder, plasterboard
Nickel Cadmium Batteries (from your power tools)
Recycled into: Nickel, steel, cadmium
Used for: New batteries, metal plating, steel industry products
Zinc Batteries (from your TV remotes or alarm clocks)
Recycled into: Steel, zinc, manganese
Used for: Steel industry products, industrial appliances
Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries (from your phone)
Recycled into: Nickel, steel
Used for: Steel industry products
Lithium Ion Batteries (from your laptop)
Recycled into: Cobalt, steel
Used for: Electronics, batteries, paint, steel industry products
That’s a wide range of products and materials powered by the batteries you’re about to bin. So instead of dropping your spent batteries into landfill, it’s time to find a better use for them. It’s time to recycle.
How to Recycle Your Batteries
Here’s the bad news. Depending on where you live, it’s not as easy to recycle batteries as it is to stick your paper waste in the correct bin and wait for a collection. Here’s what you need to do:
Check with your Council
Some councils, such as Bedford and Oxford let you place spent batteries into a clear plastic bag on top of your rubbish bin, where they’ll be collected with other waste and recycling. But for many of us, battery recycling will take a little more effort.
Head to the Supermarket
Many supermarkets and other battery retailers now provide recycling bins specifically for batteries. Just take your spent batteries with you when you buy a pint of milk and drop them off. Easy.
Ask an Expert
While councils across the UK have been slow to embrace battery recycling, businesses have been quick to step in. Recycle More provides homeowners with free battery boxes, which you can fill up and have collected at your convenience.
Who knows? If you take the time to recycle your batteries and help reclaim all of that valuable nickel, steel and zinc, maybe 2018 will be the first time the UK hits our battery recycling target? After all, it’s easy now you know how.