Single use batteries such as button and alkaline contain small amounts of mercury, a highly toxic but valuable metal. Recycling can recover mercury, other metals and plastics and prevent environmental contamination from batteries that erode in landfill.
Alkaline, button cell, lithium and carbon zinc are all types of single use batteries. While carbon zinc batteries are considered non-toxic waste other types of single use batteries present environmental hazards. Lithium batteries are highly flammable if exposed to moisture upon cell corrosion. Alkaline (made before the early 1990’s) and button cell batteries contain a small amount of mercury, a valuable but toxic metal. By recycling, mercury can be recovered for reuse while protecting the environment from mercury contamination if the battery erodes in landfill. Recycling alkaline and button batteries also recovers zinc, manganese dioxide and silver. 80% of the batteries used by Australia are everyday are single use batteries. Buying rechargeable batteries is an important way to reduce battery waste. Each battery can be recharged up to 1000 times, saving money and reducing pollution from discarded batteries.
There are commercial operators who offer national collection services for the recycling of alkaline, lithium and button cell batteries. These operators generally provide a collection box for batteries, which once full can be collected. Carbon zinc batteries are considered non-toxic waste and are safe for disposal in the normal municipal waste stream.
After batteries are collected, they sorted into their types and components and sent to licensed recycling facilities in Australia or overseas for processing. Recycling battery components is a complex and expensive process due to the chemistry involved. Plastics and metals such as mercury and silver can be recovered and recycled.
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