Truths, Myths and Big, Fat Lies About Battery Recycling
Bet you didn’t realize that batteries — those little powerhouses filled with chemicals and heavy metals — are
at the heart of the green movement. Think that’s a stretch? You’re not alone. But here are a few things to think about:
- Solar and wind energy is stored in batteries before hitting the electric grid.
- Electric and hybrid cars wouldn’t be effective at cutting emissions without batteries to store all that power.
- What about the tools allowing us to be productive away from the office — cellphones, laptops, watches and the like? They’re all powered by batteries.
It’s true, batteries don’t have the best reputation. But if we take care of them and recycle like we should,
batteries have the power to be the Earth’s best friend. Interested? Read on.
Cordless phones, digital cameras and power tools typically use nickel-cadmium (NiCd) or nickel-metal hydride (NiMh) batteries. They can be recharged hundreds of times, which saves you money in the long run.
Did you know? NiCd and NiMh batteries should never be thrown in the trash, so stop it! The Environmental Protection Agency categorizes them as household hazardous waste, and they can leech out harmful chemicals if you relegate their retirement to the local landfill.
After recycling: Materials are reused in new batteries and stainless steel products. So your designer sunglasses may have once been part of a battery.
Myth: “Cordless phones should be left on the base charger.”
Truth: Constantly topping off a NiCd or NiMh battery creates the “memory effect,” where potassium crystals build up on the plates, reducing battery run time and increasing your frustration. Unlike humans, batteries don’t need potassium in their diets. Let the phone run all the way down before recharging.
You’ll find lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries in many consumer electronics such as cellphones and laptop computers. They come in both rechargeable and non-rechargeable models, but both should be recycled. Lithium is like a preschooler — it’s small, lightweight and has a lot of energy. But, like a preschooler, it’s not well suited for carrying a heavy load.
Did you know? Lithium can be highly reactive (like a preschooler) and can cause fire if it overheats. That’s why
most lithium batteries contain protection circuits. Because of this volatility, it’s crucial to recycle (lithium batteries, not your kids).
After recycling: Materials are reused in new batteries. The secret to everlasting life!
Myth: “All rechargeable batteries are subject to the memory effect.”
Truth: Lithium-based batteries are actually forgetful, which is good in the battery world. So go ahead and top off the charge whenever you want; your lithium battery won’t hold it against you.
Alkalines are the family workhorse. You’ll find them in your flashlights, your remote controls, your kids’
toys and the foot massager you use after you step on your kids’ toys. They’re inexpensive and have a long shelf life.
Did you know? Alkaline batteries can and should be recycled whenever possible. Recycling alkaline batteries
keeps them from cluttering our landfills.
After recycling: The metals are reclaimed and used as rebar for concrete work. So that bridge they’re
building across the river may be somewhat battery powered. Cool, huh?
Big, fat lie: “Alkaline batteries contain hazardous chemicals.”
Truth: They used to contain mercury, but they don’t anymore. So they’re considered safe to throw away in
the trash. But that’s taking the lazy way out, and it’s still not Earth-friendly. Recycle them instead.
Bonus myth: “Putting alkaline batteries in the refrigerator makes them last longer.”
Truth: Alkalines have a shelf life of about seven years, and keeping them next to the milk won’t help them last
significantly longer. Besides, you might mistakenly grab one when you’re looking for a midnight snack.
Did you know? Lead-acid batteries are the most recycled consumer product in America, and Interstate
We recycle roughly 1.3 batteries for each one we sell, which means in the last 10 years, we’ve recycled more
than 183,184,000 batteries. But who’s counting?
After recycling: The lead is melted down and used in new batteries. The plastic is broken down and reused
any number of ways, and the battery acid is neutralized and added to laundry detergent. See? Batteries can be
Myth: “Winter is the hardest season for automotive batteries.”
Truth: More batteries actually fail in summer than in winter. And those winter failures are usually caused by
damage suffered in the summer. To keep your battery in good health, get it tested every six months by a battery
expert. And we know just the expert.
Trust the Battery Recycling Experts
At Interstate Batteries, green is our thing! We’ve been the battery recycling leader since 1952. Visit our dealer locator to find the nearest Interstate All Battery Center where you can recycle your batteries. See you there!
This post is modified ever-so-slightly from an Interstate All Battery Center recycling brochure. See it here:
Battery Recycling: Truths, Myths and Big, Fat Lies