Many districts lack alkaline battery recycling and advise locals to throw their alkaline batteries out. Recycling options tend to focus more on car and lawnmower batteries, lithium-ion batteries, and other rechargeable batteries. Did you know that recycling alkaline batteries is just as important?

While many devices now use rechargeable batteries, some household electronics take alkaline batteries that include 9-volt, AA, AAA, C, and D batteries. This includes smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, flashlights, portable radios, TV and stereo remotes, doorbell cameras, and children’s toys. As batteries run out of juice, they’re removed and replaced with a new set. 

The EPA states that “in most communities, alkaline and zinc carbon batteries can be safely put in your household trash.” Yet, if you keep reading, it does say it’s recommended that you send them to a battery recycler. It’s time to stop tossing them out and focus on recycling your business’s alkaline batteries

Why Recycle Alkaline Batteries?

Before we get into the recycling process, you should know how an alkaline battery is created. The steel metal shell on the outside contains an interior coating of manganese dioxide and conductive materials. Inside that, there’s a paper separator that keeps the cathode mixture from the potassium hydroxide electrolyte and powdered zinc (anode). A plastic wrap goes on the outside of the steel shell with the battery’s branding and production information printed on the sleeve.

The steel shell is capped at the top and bottom. That bottom cap has a brass pin that runs up the center of the battery. When you insert the battery correctly, the brass pin and connections within the device complete a circuit that triggers the potassium hydroxide and zinc electrolyte to form a reaction that produces energy.

When a battery is spent, you have the steel, brass, zinc, manganese dioxide, and potassium hydroxide remaining. If you throw it out, over time, it breaks down and gets into the soil, groundwater, and even air. You might think it’s okay because it’s in a lined dump site, but it takes time for a battery to break down in a mound of buried trash. 

Most waste sites today use HDPE geomembranes. They’ve only been used for a few decades, so it’s impossible to tell if those liners will still be effective 100 years from now. Here’s the problem, it can take alkaline batteries more than 100 years to fully break down. If a liner fails 100 years from now, and all of the alkaline batteries that have been thrown out are still decomposing, it’s going to impact the groundwater, soil, and even air through the process of evaporation and wind.

While it may have been acceptable to toss batteries out in the past, it’s never been good for people, animals, or the environment. These materials have detrimental effects.

  • Manganese Dioxide – Makes it hard for fish, frogs, and other aquatic animals to breathe.
  • Potassium Hydroxide – Increases the water and soil’s pH, which impacts beneficial bacteria and harms certain plants.
  • Zinc – High quantities can cause anemia.

Plus, some of these items, such as the steel for the casing, have to be mined. Mining is detrimental to the environment when strict precautions to minimize damage aren’t followed. Not every country uses safe, environmentally responsible mining practices.

Understanding Bulk Alkaline Battery Recycling

Bulk battery recycling is a process where many batteries are recycled at once. Instead of recycling one, two, three, etc. batteries, you save them up and recycle dozens or hundreds at a time. It’s a good choice when you’re in a business where batteries are used regularly in things like pagers, flashlights, remotes, etc.

Instead of throwing them out where they can cause problems for future generations, recycling is optimal. How does it work? Much of this comes down to the company you choose.

Ideally, make sure you choose a company that doesn’t send anything overseas. Partnering with a battery recycler who is R2 and eSteward certified is a smart move. Ask the company if they process everything in a local facility or where they bring batteries for recycling.

Once the batteries are brought to a facility, they’re often shredded in giant shredders that break up the batteries into small pieces. The shredded material passes through magnets to separate the metal components from paper, plastic, and the powders.

Steel can be melted down and reused to make new products requiring steel. The same can happen with plastic, though it has to be mixed with new plastic pellets too to maintain durability.

There’s also what’s called the black mass core, which is the magnesium oxide and other materials are processed in a kiln to transform them to materials that can be reused. For example, you can turn zinc and manganese into pellets that can be used as fertilizer. Magnesium oxide can be put in a kiln and turned into zinc oxide for use in products like ceramic dishes and mugs.

 As you recycle larger quantities of batteries, it helps reduce the need for mining of raw steel ore. It reduces the amount of petroleum needed to make new plastic pellets. Recycling supports a circular economy, which is going to help the environment and raw mineral supplies in the long run.

Tips for Packaging Your Batteries For Bulk Recycling

Typically, there are requirements and safety precautions to follow when you’re recycling a large number of batteries. You’ve probably heard that you have to put electrical tape over the ends, which is frustrating when you have hundreds of batteries. 

It’s also often recommended that you keep the batteries in a cool, dry place. They need to be away from places where water might leak in. ERI has a better option for businesses that need bulk battery recycling options that are convenient and focus on simplicity.

How ERI Can Help

ERI is making it easier than ever to recycle batteries in bulk. Best of all, you don’t have to separate them first. Fill the OneDrum Battery Recycling Drum with every battery you have and add the CellBlockEX fire extinguishing agent that’s made using recycled glass.

You can fill the drum with any kind of battery. Fill it with bulk alkaline, lithium-ion, carbon zinc, lead acid gel, and lithium batteries in one shot and safely ship it to ERI for processing and recycling that meets federal and state laws. It’s an easy way to recycle bulk batteries safely and correctly following DOT transportation requirements without needing a lot of paperwork.