As part of our ongoing mission to combat needless landfill waste we’re pleased to introduce the latest addition to the EcoBin family: Battery Recycling Bins for offices, schools and other workplaces.
More than once in recent articles we’ve covered the issue of E-Waste and how most of it still needlessly ends up in landfill. Batteries make up a significant and growing part of the E-Waste stream.
Behind the growing number of batteries finding their way to our bins is our insatiable demand for new, more convenient types technology: devices that run on cordless power and which communicate wirelessly.
Why Bother Recycling Batteries?
There are two strong reasons for keeping batteries out of landfill:
1) Many batteries contain metals that are toxic and have the potential do long term damage to the environment:
Cobalt, Mercury, Cadmium, Nickel are still commonly found in the button cell batteries used in clocks, watches and other miniature gadgetry.
Some alkaline (e.g. AA and AAA type) batteries also contain Nickel and Mercury.
Once they find their way into landfill these metals leach into rainwater producing toxic runoff that poisons local groundwater and ecosystems unless carefully contained.
Some manufacturers downplay battery toxicity, arguing that they no longer include toxic metals in their products. While that may be true of their own products, other manufacturers continue to use them. That’s why batteries are classified as hazardous waste in Western Australia
In fact there are few industry-wide bans on using toxic metals in batteries. To be certain that you’re avoiding them you’d need to know and trust your battery brand. What’s more, unlike food products, battery manufacturers are not required by law to include an ingredient list on packaging.
2) Another compelling argument is that many of the metals used in batteries can be recycled and reused an infinite number of times.
Aside from the metals already listed, other common ingredients include:
Mining and purification of these metals is energy intensive and often comes at considerable environmental cost.
In some cases there’s a social cost too. For example, much of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo where mine workers endure atrocious working conditions that would horrify end users if only they knew. Cobalt is used extensively in Lithium Ion batteries.
Battery Recycling in The Workplace
Because batteries make up a tiny portion of our overall waste output it’s easy to overlook them.
But with a little effort on the part of employers the problem can be easily solved in three steps.
1) Provide dedicated bins for spent batteries. Battery bins need only be small. We provide specially labelled bins for the purpose that take up very little space, but are easy to notice. However, if you prefer to improvise any plastic container with a stand out label will do.
2) Let staff know that you’d like them to your use dedicated battery recycling bins and why.
3) Either make arrangements with your recycling company to collect them as a separate stream, or arrange for a member of staff to make periodic visits to a drop off centre once a quarter, or even annually.
Where to Recycle Batteries
German supermarket chain ALDI has taken the lead in showing local supermarkets how to help solve a problem they all help create and profit from.
The easiest way to recycle batteries in most of Australia’s major population centres right now is to drop them off at any branch of ALDI.
On the back of Western Australia’s move to classify batteries as hazardous waste, Perth residents can now recycle their batteries at 150 dedicated battery drop off bins located around the city.
Elsewhere in Australia it’s harder to find municipal facilities outside major recycling drop-off points. There are a number of electronics retailers in Victoria who collect spent batteries and the City of Sydney also provides a limited range of recycling facilities.
The website of the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative also offers battery recycling information.
For more information on battery recycling, download Planet Ark’s battery recycling fact sheet.