Most everything we use contains batteries of some kind, whether it’s alkaline, nickel metal hydride (NMH), or Lithium Ion, but some are more dangerous than others. There are car batteries and batteries for toys, but the most dangerous of all are the ones found in our electronics. Smartphones, laptops and tablets typically use Lithium Ion batteries, which are known to cause fires when damaged.
Lithium Ion batteries have been referred to as “mini bombs,” especially when they’re carried around in smartphones. LIBs are sensitive to high temperatures and highly flammable, and though most are safe unless they’re damaged, accidents are always a possibility. According to IonEnergy, “Lithium-ion cells like all chemistries undergo self-discharge. Elevated self discharge can cause temperatures to rise which if uncontrolled can lead to a Thermal Runaway also known as ‘venting with flame.’ If, however, due to some damage to the cell, impurities penetrate into the cell, a major electrical short can develop. This can cause a sizable current to flow between the positive and negative plates. During a thermal runaway, the heat generated by a failed cell can move to the next cell, causing it to become thermally unstable as well.”
Many factors can lead to impurities penetrating the cell such as manufacturing defects, design flaws, and abnormal/improper usage, however, one of the most common factors is damage to the battery. Think of how many times we drop our smartphones, even if it’s just a few feet off the bed. How many times has it bounced from the bed into the wall or bedside table? Now imagine a small explosion as a result. Though most battery fires occur in materials recovery facilities (MRF), LIBs can be extremely dangerous anywhere when damaged, especially when not disposed of correctly.
There are several methods of electronic waste disposal that include batteries, the safest being recycling via a professional disposition service. IT asset disposition enterprises like HOBI International collect old electronics and ensure that they are safely, and properly disposed of. Other methods like landfills and incineration can be more harmful to the environment, as well as the surrounding residents if the batteries’ chemicals leak into the soil or contaminate the air. For in-house professional battery removal there are precautions and safety measures to take to prevent fires. Recycling prevents any harmful chemicals from entering the atmosphere, and mitigates potential fires in landfills.