How to Recycle Batteries

March 19, 2020 at 9:05 pm by Flora Knolton

How to Recycle Batteries

At some point in your life you’ve probably wondered whether or not batteries are able to be recycled nearing the end of your cell phone or tablet’s life.  It’s crucial that devices have their batteries removed prior to any destruction. Force from the hardware surrounding the battery during physical destruction can cause damage to the electrodes or the separator and lead to short circuiting. Inadequate venting or thermal management can cause the battery to heat up. If too hot, chemical reactions can cause it to heat up even more and spiral out of control. It’s a situation called thermal runaway that often ends in an explosion or fire once oxygen is introduced. So always remember to remove batteries prior to destroying any IT device, and remember, those batteries can be recycled! All batteries contain very different chemical makeups and therefore it is imperative disposed of differently for your safety; here’s how:

Lead acid batteries require a longer process than others to recycle, but the end result is worth it. After they are crushed into pieces, the broken battery is then placed into a vat. The lead and heavy materials fall to the bottom and the plastic floats. The polypropylene pieces are then brushed aside and separated from the lead and heavy metals. Each of the materials then goes into its separate recycling “stream”.

The plastic polypropylene pieces are washed and then melted into a liquid state. When the liquid hardens the plastic is then turned into smaller plastic pellets and the cycle restarts as these pellets are then used for manufacturing other battery cases. The lead parts of the battery are melted to separate the impurities from the ingots. The impurities get swept away while the ingots such as gold or steel are sent back for manufacturing of new batteries. Sulfuric acid is the last material to be dealt with when recycling lead acid batteries. Firstly, you can neutralize the acid with an industrial compound similar to baking soda, and this neutralization will turn the acid into water. The water is then tested and treated by a water treatment plant to be sure it meets standards of clean water. The second way to recycle the sulfuric acid is to convert the acid to sodium sulfate. Sodium sulfate is an odorless powder that is used in detergent and textile manufacturing. Lead acid batteries are pretty neat considering almost every part of the old battery (nearly 98%!) is repurposed for new batteries.

Alkaline batteries (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) are separated into three end products — metal, plastic, and paper, generally — through a mechanical separation. Alkaline batteries contain manganese, steel and zinc, all of which are naturally occurring metals that pose no threat to the environment. These types of batteries do not exhibit any of the following criteria to be classified as hazardous by the EPA: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity and toxicity. As such, they are not listed as hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), so they can be safely disposed of in household trash or general waste.

Lithium Ion batteries are recycled in a process that also separates them into three end products: cobalt and lithium salt concentrate; stainless steel; and copper, aluminum, and plastic. Cobalt, copper, and other metals found in lithium ion batteries can readily leak from the casing of buried batteries and contaminate soil and groundwater, threatening ecosystems and human health, says Zhi Sun, a specialist in pollution control at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Lithium-ion batteries are compact, complex devices, come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and are not designed to be disassembled. Each cell contains a cathode, anode, separator, and electrolyte. All of these products again are able to be recycled into new batteries!

Nickel-Cadmium batteries first are separated into metal and plastic components. The metals, such as iron, nickel, manganese, and chromium, get tossed into an essentially high melting point metal bath to separate from lower melting point metals like zinc and cadmium. Once separated the zinc and cadmium are then recycled with the plastics to be reused for new batteries.

Nickel Metal Hydride batteries are removed from their cells. The cells go through a drying process to remove moisture (the potassium hydroxide electrolyte and H20) from the battery. During the drying process, the cells are heated in a time- and temperature-controlled manner. Once completely dried, the cells become valuable feedstock for stainless steel or alloy manufacturers.

Mercury batteries are decreasing in usage, fortunately, due to the Mercury-Containing Rechargeable Battery Management Act of 1996. This act prohibits the sale of certain types of mercury-containing batteries in the United States. However, when they are recycled, mercury and other heavy metals are normally extracted through a controlled-temperature process.

Zinc-Carbon (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) and Zinc-Air batteries are recycled the same way as alkaline batteries mentioned above by using high temperature metal reclamation to melt them and then repurpose them into new batteries.

It’s important to dispose of batteries properly so they don’t end up in landfills polluting our environment further. It’s integral in these times that we conserve our natural resources like metals and minerals for longevity down the road. Improperly disposing of batteries can lead to many chaotic outcomes. Battery-powered devices ready for destruction can be harmful to the environment as well as yourself. Leaving a battery in a device that you will be storing or destroying can drain the battery and lead to some unpleasant surprises, like leaks and explosions. By knowing the chemistry of each battery and the proper way of disposing of them, we are taking a step in preventing pollution by reducing the need to collect untouched, raw materials, which puts a strain on our planet.


The Case For Outsourcing Destruction

December 21, 2019 at 2:58 pm by SEM

Did you know that business espionage professionals consider a company’s trash dumpster to be the most available source of competitive and private information? This is due to people overlooking what they are throwing in the trash can and not taking information security as serious as it truly is. This is a major concern because any one document could contain important company information or employee information that is harmful if it ends up in the wrong hands.

Depending on your application, there are two options that can help increase your information security:

Option 1: Shred Service -Most commonly used for: Unclassified Applications

Questions to ask prior to signing a contract:

  1. Who are the people destroying my information?
  2. Are they a well recognized company?
  3. Do they perform background checks on all of their employees?
  4. What is the shred particle size?
  5. Am I in compliance with my specifications?
  6. Am I satisfied with the particle?
  7. Is this cost efficient Am I overpaying?
  8. Would it be more feasible to make a one time purchase to buy equipment?

Option 2: Purchase Equipment – Most commonly used for: Sensitive or Classified Applications

Questions to ask prior to purchasing equipment:

  1. What is my volume?
  2. Is this a constant volume?
  3. Will I get a constant use of this machine or am I simply taking care of a purge?
  4. Is this the right equipment for my application?
  5. Does this fit my volume?
  6. Does it have the capabilities that I need?

Although these options have been directed towards paper shredding, always consider that information resides on many different forms of media. There is equipment that is capable of destroying hard drives, tapes (all types), CD’s, DVD’s, floppy discs, zip drives, microfilm etc. So whether a shred service or purchasing equipment fits your application best – always make sure you evaluate your options and take the correct steps towards protecting your companies’ information.

Higher Education Institutions: The Great Debate

August 8, 2016 at 9:15 am by SEM

Technology is a huge part of our lives today. From computers to tablets to all kinds of PDA’s. But what do you do with these devices when they are at the end of their life considering all the sensitive information on them? This is particularly a problem for colleges and higher education universities. Just think of all the different types of IT related products that are used on a college campus. There are computers and laptops for the staff. Most students use some type of laptop, tablet, cellphone and USB drives. So when these devices are at the end of their life what do you do with them? Simply throw them in the trash, use a third party service, or set up a secure in-house destruction program?

Back to school education knowledge college university concept

Outside Shred Service

In the past this has been a common solution because of convenience. Particularly in years past when the volume of IT devices was low. The premise was simple,  call a shred service and they come out and destroy the media for you. It’s kind of an out of site out of mind thing. However as the volume increases it can get expensive. There is typically a fee to come to your location and then pricing is based on your volume with a minimum fee. So why not put that money into a piece of equipment where you could destroy the drives yourself and also ensure maximum security?

In-house Destruction Options

When you are starting to think about setting up your own in-house destruction program there are a few things to think about. What is your volume? What type of drives are you looking to destroy? What is your budget? Depending on these answers to these questions you could possibly purchase your own destruction device and actually have it pay for itself in the first year or 2 compared with what you are paying for a destruction service. Also doing it yourself ensures maximum security.

High Security Destruction

When dealing with high security and classified data that is associated with National Defense, the US Federal Government implements a two step process in which a hard drive is degaussed with an NSA level degausser and physically destroyed. To that end, SEM offers a variety of Degauss and Destroy Bundle Solutions for both NSA Level and/or commercial level information.

If you need to destroy hard drives or any other type of electronic media, SEM has a solution to meet a wide variety needs and budgets.