How to Recycle Batteries? BROADCAST FROM THE BINS: BEWARE BINNING BATTERIES
Every battery carries the warning, whether it be on the packaging or the battery itself, “please dispose of responsibly.” From AAAs to the higher capacity power packs like the BP-130S which keep photographers powered up and mobile; rechargeable batteries often contain toxic chemicals which have no place in our landfills.
For many people, responsible disposal of their batteries simply means they get discarded with the regular garbage. It’s quick, simple, and painless but with the increasing numbers of batteries making it into our landfills every week, it’s time we gave some thought as to how we deal with these potentially deadly little power packs.
Batteries are firmly entrenched in our lives; they power our TV remotes, flashlights, cameras, and children’s toys. In the average gadget-centric house of the 21st century, they can be found in every room of the house. All this adds up to billions of little toxic waste dumps being disposed of worldwide every year – with a mountain’s worth making it into our landfills.
There are more than 3 billion batteries thrown out every year in the US alone, with most discarded without a second thought once they run out of fizzle. While not all batteries contain harmful chemicals, many will leach toxic substances into the soil once the weight of the landfill starts to crush down on the protective casing.
Once a containment breach occurs, toxic chemicals start to make their way into the groundwater and soil. From there they can make their way into the food chain, into our water supply, and eventually onto our dinner plate. While they may be out of sight and out of mind, discarded batteries are quietly damaging the environment and affecting our health. One component of many batteries, cadmium, is really bad news for the environment once it gets free of the battery’s casing, as it’s harmful to fish and damages plant roots. Contact with humans may result in skin irritation or nausea, but there are also some concerns that prolonged exposure to cadmium may lead to cancer.
While batteries buried in our landfill are bad enough, in certain circumstances the harmful chemicals may also make it into our atmosphere. Batteries which haven’t been disposed of properly may be set on fire, which will allow their toxic components to become airborne. Plus, there is also the risk of injury as batteries often explode from the intense heat.
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news, as Lithium-Ion batteries are considered safe to throw into your regular garbage. However, this doesn’t mean you should, as it’s always much better to take your old worn out batteries to the recycling center, where their components can be separated to find new life elsewhere. Many countries also regulate the disposal of Lithium batteries, so it’s always a good idea to check.
Photographers who use rechargeable batteries to earn their bread and butter will be happy to know that their favorite Lithium Ion batteries, namely the BP-130S and the BP-190S, are not as toxic to the environment as their other rechargeable brethren, but if there is a recycling facility in your area, then you should use it. Legislation has been forcing retailers to be more conscientious about the environment and collect old batteries, so they can be sent off and recycled responsibly.
So, before you decide to chuck your tired old batteries in the bin, give a thought about the environment and consider how your actions may eventually be detrimental to the health and well-being of yourself and those around you. It also pays to bear in mind that to manufacture a battery requires fifty times more energy than what it contains. Isn’t this even more of a reason to pay attention to how we dispose of our old batteries?