Cell phones, appliances, cars. Batteries are everywhere! For the most part, if a device contains a battery, it is considered an electronic.

Responsible and environmentally sound battery handling is key in electronics recycling. But, how can you know how to properly dispose of something if you aren’t aware of its affects on the environment?

Batteries are produced from a combination of heavy metals, typically lead, mercury, cadmium or nickel. They react with an electrolyte to produce electricity.

Battery recycling is one of the most successful and often harmful businesses in the world if done irresponsibly.

The heavy metals are what makes batteries a danger to the environment.

Responsible recyclers realize the after affects of battery lead being absorbed into drinking water, lead poisoning. It doesn’t stop there. Incinerating the heavy metals contained in batteries will release dangerous toxins into the air when burned.

Some companies believe that by sending e-waste abroad to developing countries the problem disappears. Unfortunately, countries like Mexico have one-tenth the proper disposal standards as the U.S. The lax regulations lead to growing lead emissions onto factory floor and into the air.

If electronics recyclers can’t simply throw them out, burn them or send them away, what CAN they do to responsibly recycle batteries?

Along with mobile phones, batteries have been improving significantly throughout the years. Old batteries, typically made before 1997, should ALWAYS be responsibly recycled. These can contain as much as ten times the amount of mercury as the newer versions, after Congress mandated a mercury “phase-out,” according to an article about battery disposal.

Rechargeable batteries, most commonly in cell phones, tablets and laptops, are of greater concern nowadays because they still contain heavy metals detrimental to the environment.

Compliance with government regulations is essential for electronics recyclers and ITAD organizations. Many states have initiated laws that make responsible battery recycling mandatory. Fortunately, lead, the leading component in batteries, is easily recycled into new batteries or other lead products. An article by Green Living reported that “roughly 60 to 80 percent of the components in a brand-new battery are created from recycled lead and plastics.”

HOBI President Craig Boswell will share his knowledge on safe battery handling at the ISRI Annual Convention on April 11th.