GREEN LIVING COLUMN
COLLECTION OF USED BATTERIES FOR RECYCLING
By Wong Ee Lynn
Batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, which can contaminate the environment when batteries are improperly disposed of. In landfills, heavy metals have the potential to leach slowly into soil, groundwater or surface water. When incinerated, some heavy metals such as mercury may vaporize and escape into the air, and cadmium and lead may end up in the ash.
Recycling batteries keeps heavy metals out of the soil, water and air, and saves resources because the metals and plastics recovered can be used in making new batteries.
Used batteries are classified as ‘scheduled waste’ due to the harm they could cause to the environment and to human health. There are currently very few facilities in Malaysia that collect used batteries for recycling, and batteries should never be disposed of in normal recycling bins (for paper, glass, plastic and metals) or in charity bins.
Below is a list of the most common batteries and how you should dispose of them:
Automobile Batteries (Lead-Acid Batteries)
These are the most widely recycled batteries as almost every retailer of automobile batteries (auto workshops, battery shops) will collect or buy back used batteries. Reclaimers separate the plastic from the lead and both materials are reprocessed and recycled by battery manufacturers and other industries. A typical automobile battery is made up of 60%-80% recycled lead and plastic.
Cellular Phone Batteries
Most rechargeable cellular phone batteries are small sealed lead acid batteries, and the rest are nickel-cadmium batteries. Fortunately for us, most cellular phone service centres for major cell phone manufacturers/companies (Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Siemens) provide bins for the collection of used or damaged cell phone batteries. To find out where to send the used batteries of your phone’s particular make or model, visit the website of the particular cell phone manufacturer and follow the public relations and environmental standards links. Failing that, e-mail the Customer Service Department of the phone manufacturer with your query.
Household Dry Cell Batteries
Household dry cell batteries would include alkaline, carbon-zinc, mercuric-oxide, silver-oxide, zinc-air and lithium batteries, both rechargeable and non-rechargeable. Green Living has made inquiries with Alam Flora and was instructed to deal directly with Kualiti Alam Sdn Bhd, which collects, deals with and recycles scheduled wastes in Malaysia. Green Living has made arrangements with Kualiti Alam for the collection of household batteries.
Members are encouraged to set aside all their used household batteries and store them in a dry, safe place, away from water, direct sunlight, flammable materials, children and animals (A lidded jar or container is a good start) and bring them to the MNS Office in Jalan Kelantan, where Green Living has provided a secure bin for the collection of batteries.
At the same time, Green Living wishes to remind everyone that reducing is always a better option than recycling. To reduce your household’s use and disposal of batteries, please heed the following:
1. Buy fewer battery-operated gadgets and gifts. Try to make sure your next gift to someone isn’t a cellular phone, Game Boy, remote controlled car or some other unnecessarily battery-powered device.
2. Buy solar-powered or dynamo-powered gadgets (flashlights, calculators, watches) whenever available. This could also save you money in the long run.
3. Always opt for rechargeable batteries rather than batteries you have to replace.
4. Learn to take proper care of your battery-powered devices (laptops, cell phones, digital cameras) to prevent damage to batteries and devices caused by charging for too long or improperly.
5. Whenever available, use ‘hybrid’ batteries such as rechargeable nickel metal hybrid (NiMH), as they are longer lasting, less toxic and will not discharge quickly when left idle, unlike rechargeable batteries using older technology.