Recycled batteries have the power to make a real difference

PUBLISHED: 11:54 28 January 2009 | UPDATED: 22:58 15 June 2010

THE vast majority of householders say they would recycle batteries if there was a door-to-door battery collection service but in this area residents benefit from one of the many trial schemes set up the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) working

THE vast majority of householders say they would recycle batteries if there was a door-to-door battery collection service but in this area residents benefit from one of the many trial schemes set up the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) working with East Devon District Council.There are a wide range that can be collected, but broadly speaking they are those which an average person could carry in one hand.In other words, it does not include car or other vehicle batteries, or industrial batteries.In their journey to be recycled, batteries are gathered together until there are about 500 kg in one container, which is then taken to a sorting centre.Expert sorters then go through the batteries and such is their knowledge, they can get through about one tonne a day.Those that are not immediately recognised are put to one side for later analysis.Automation in the sorting process is developing, but some have concerns about safety with bullets and shotgun cartridges being difficult to distinguish from batteries. Such contamination is not unheard of.Again, similar batteries are gathered together until it is cost-effective to make a shipment to a recycling plant.The volumes involved depend on where the recycling is carried out.In the UK, alkaline batteries can be shipped in 10 tonne loads, whereas Nickel Cadmium batteries are recycled in France, and 25 tonnes are required before a shipment is merited.Different batteries have different elements within them and it is these that affect which recycling process is used. Before anything can be recovered, the outer casing is removed and then there are two basic processes the batteries can go through.The pyrometallurgical process involves extracting the metals using a furnace, while the hydrometallurgical process sees the batteries dissolved in acid, with the metals being removed chemically.Although the UK does not have a full process for dealing with alkaline and zinc carbon batteries, the hydrometallurgical system is being developed.Among the reasons for this are that it can ensure batteries meet the specified efficiency targets and it is very flexible, meaning that volumes and throughput can be increased more easily than with furnaces, which are of a set size.Also there are few emissions from the process, whereas furnaces have gaseous emissions and, although mercury is really only found in some very old batteries, the chemical process deals with it better than hot processes.There are a range of metals that can be recovered such as steel, nickel, zinc and manganese.As to what they can be used for, the list is endless, such as more batteries and a range of uses in the steel industry.


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