Batteries are energy cells that have been powering our world since the 1800s. From everyday devices to electric vehicles, the role batteries play in our society is more critical than we realise. Every year, an estimated 350 million batteries are consumed in Australia, and this number is steadily growing.
But where do all those batteries go after their juice is all used up? If your first thought was “into the rubbish bin”, you might be contributing to a rising problem affecting our environment.
Unlike regular waste, batteries fall into their own category of waste known as “electronic waste” or “e-waste”. E-waste is categorised as such mainly due to the potential environmental hazard it poses — it often contains toxic materials such as lead and mercury that can pollute the land.
Before you toss another empty cell into the trash, let us tell you how to dispose of batteries safely and responsibly.
Why Proper Battery Disposal is so Important
As mentioned above, the consequences of improper battery disposal are significant. When batteries are disposed of at landfills (the most common disposal method for general waste), they may be damaged or destroyed in the process. This results in a leak of the battery’s insides, releasing harmful materials that may seep into the earth or contaminate water sources.
Apart from protecting our environment, the proper disposal of batteries also helps in the production of new batteries. Remember how batteries have toxic materials on the inside? Well, some of them can actually be extracted and reused in the creation of batteries and other electronics. Doing so also helps with energy conservation, as less effort is required to extract more of these materials.
E-Waste Regulations in Sydney
Still not convinced on the importance of safe battery disposal? Well, apart from sustainability, there are also legal considerations you need to keep in mind. In Sydney, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) regulates the disposal of all waste — and that includes electronic waste. So, unless you’re interested in having to pay a hefty fine or penalty, you’ll want to dispose of your e-waste the right way.
Know Your Battery Types
Since batteries come in all sorts of compositions and sizes, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for their disposal. But thanks to advances in modern technology, there are now ways to recycle most types of batteries.
Here’s a brief guide to the different types of batteries and how they are recycled:
Alkaline Batteries: Typically comes in double or triple-A sizes and contains the least hazardous materials of the lot. They are crushed in the recycling process and separated into their constituent metals.
Lithium-ion Batteries: Often found in smartphones, laptops, or other handheld electronics due to their high charge capacity. They are heated to high temperatures during the recycling process to extract metals that can be reused.
Nickel-Cadmium Batteries: Rechargeable, mostly used in old electronics & power tools. It must be heated in a low-oxygen environment to remove cadmium, a toxic heavy metal that can contaminate soil and water.
Lead-Acid Batteries: Used to power vehicles, heavy machinery, or as a power supply. Because of its high lead content, they must be handled and recycled with care to prevent lead pollution.
How to Dispose of Batteries Properly
As we mentioned earlier, tossing your empty batteries into the bin is not the proper way to dispose of them. If you inspect them closely, most batteries have warning labels against bin disposal printed on them.
Here’s the best way to dispose of batteries: Hand them over to a responsible e-waste removal or collection service so that they can be recycled. Batteries, even when empty, still contain hazardous materials under their protective plastic casing, so you should handle them with care.
Take the following steps for safety:
Identify what kind of battery it is: You can use the guide we’ve outlined above to help you. As mentioned above, there are different disposal methods for each battery type, so you should always sort your empty batteries first.
Insulate battery terminals: Grab some non-conductive tape and fully cover both of the battery’s connection points. This prevents short-circuiting from occurring, which could lead to a fire.
Ensure that the battery is not damaged: You can usually tell if a battery is damaged from its appearance. If it’s swollen or has a bulge, it’s most likely damaged. Avoid handling it with your bare hands and place it in a fireproof container before contacting an e-waste recycling service for advice.
Store batteries safely: If you won’t be able to recycle them for a while, you should keep them in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and flammable materials.
Where to Dispose of Batteries in Sydney
There are many recycling stations all over Sydney that collect small batteries and electronics. Some of these collection points are authorised by the EPA, while others are run by electronics shops or businesses. You can usually find one that’s close to you by searching online.
Sometimes, the batteries you have on hand are too bulky or heavy to handle. In these situations, it’s always better to get enlist the help of a trusted e-waste removal service like Ridly. A professional team will have the right gear and knowledge to manage your batteries safely.
The E-Waste Recycling Process
Once your batteries have been dropped off, they begin their recycling journey. After being crushed, shredded, or smelted down, their leftover materials will be extracted to be reused, either in the production of new batteries or other electronics.
In a way, recycling your batteries gives them a new lease of life and reduces unnecessary waste. Our world’s resources are plentiful but finite, and we should take every measure to conserve them.
Final Thoughts on Battery Disposal
From powering TV remotes to large construction vehicles, batteries play an unseen part in our everyday lives, that is, until we need to replace them. When that time comes, remember the steps that we’ve outlined above to dispose of them properly.
Here at Ridly, we take proper disposal and recycling very seriously. That’s why we offer same-day rubbish removal solutions, so that your trash can go where it needs to. If you have batteries that need clearing, just give us a call, and we’ll handle the rest!