Lithium Battery Recycling: How to Dispose of Lithium Batteries

When it comes to batteries for electrical devices and appliances, there are many options. And lithium batteries are the most widely used battery. They are incredibly versatile as power sources and can work in any condition.

And although they do have a longer lifespan than most alternatives, there will come a time when it will run out of power. When that happens, you’ll want to dispose of it properly and recycle it. That’s the prime reason that we’re here today.

How to Dispose of Lithium Batteries
How to Dispose of Lithium Batteries

As we go through this article, we’re going to see why and how you can perform lithium battery recycling. Since there are different types of lithium batteries, we’ll be sure to cover the different processes needed to safely dispose of these batteries.

Things You Need to Know About Lithium Batteries

There are a couple of things that you need to know about lithium batteries if you’re to safely recycle them.

Lithium batteries are used devices that are portable. Things you carry around like a laptop, mobile phone, or a tablet. While they are one of the best options for battery life, they need to be managed properly. If not, they can cause harm to the environment.

Since they have such a large lifespan, it will be some time before they need to be replaced. When it comes to the rechargeable batteries, those take even longer to deplete.

Lumping lithium batteries with recyclable waste is not right at all. Because although you have to recycle the batteries, they are considered as electrical waste. This also means that a completely different approach needs to be taken in the lithium battery recycling process.

Why Is It Necessary to Recycle Lithium Batteries?

For the most part, lithium batteries are not that harmful. But they can become dangerous, if you don’t process them properly.

Why Is It Necessary to Recycle Lithium Batteries
Why Is It Necessary to Recycle Lithium Batteries

If the physical integrity of a lithium battery is compromised, it’s possible for it to catch on fire. We know that you don’t want that to happen. This is why you want to know how lithium battery recycling works to stop that from ever happening.

Lithium batteries are created using materials such as cobalt, graphite, and lithium. They are considered critical minerals which is not widely available. If you don’t recycle it properly, all those critical minerals are lost in the trash.

And following that logic, when recycled properly, the materials can be reused to create new batteries. This is going to be more efficient in the production of the batteries and also avoid any unnecessary waste.

Types of Lithium Batteries

Lithium batteries are used in a lot of different devices and in different form factors. They are made as such depending on the device they’re going to be used on. There are rechargeable versions of it as well as non-rechargeable versions.

There are slight differences in how they are made. But that also means that you’ll need to use completely different techniques for the lithium battery recycling process. Let’s check them out.

Single Use Non-Rechargeable Batteries

The non-rechargeable batteries have a shorter life span compared to their counterpart. Single use lithium batteries are used in devices, where it’s easy to replace them once the battery runs out of juice.

Single Use Non-Rechargeable Batteries
Single Use Non-Rechargeable Batteries

Examples of such devices are flashlights, cameras, watches, and handheld appliances. These products have a low drain, so you can use the batteries for quite some time before they’re out of power.

The batteries can also be made into different shapes. These can be button cells, or coin batteries depending on the machine. Although there will be a difference in the shape of the battery, the process of the lithium battery recycling for them will be the same.

Rechargeable Lithium Cells

These are the lithium batteries that are commonly found in phones, laptops, digital cameras, tablets, and some other appliances. As people use these devices regularly, it helps to have the batteries be rechargeable.

Rechargeable Lithium Cells
Rechargeable Lithium Cells

For some of the devices, the batteries can be easily removed which helps in the recycling process. But for a few of the devices, the batteries can’t be taken out without the help of a professional.

When dealing with batteries like this, you are always recommended to take it to a professional or a facility that is designed to deal with this. That will ensure that the batteries are disposed of properly and the critical material is made usable for new batteries.

How Can Consumers Dispose Lithium Batteries?

How can you, a regular consumer, recycle lithium batteries properly? As we mentioned, just dumping them in the trash is not safe nor does it help with the critical materials. That’s why we’ve prepared this guide to help you learn the process for disposing of these lithium batteries.

When it comes to lithium battery recycling, these can be divided into two main classes. Small scale batteries and medium to large scale batteries. Let’s have a look at the disposal process for both of these cases.

Small Scale Battery Disposal

The first step in recycling lithium batteries is going to be finding a recycling location specifically designed for lithium batteries. You might think putting them in your regular recycling bin is enough. But that’s not true.

Small Scale Battery Disposal
Small Scale Battery Disposal

There are certified recyclers who take care of the disposal process for you. You can send your electronic device and they will recycle the lithium batteries. There are also retailers who offer similar services. If you can’t find a certified recycler, the retailers are the next best thing.

If you have a device that lets you take out the battery with ease, then you don’t have to part with your electronic device. You can simply take out the battery and find a recycling location specified for lithium batteries.

Just like with the previous case, you can send it to retailers who offer takeback services. They will take care of the necessary procedure and make sure the battery is recycled properly.

Another alternative that you can take is get in touch with a household hazardous waste program. They take care of the lithium battery recycling process all the time. If you can’t find any of the options mentioned above, then this is your go-to.

Middle and Large Scale Battery Disposal

There is a problem when it comes to medium to large scale batteries. Because of the way they are designed, it’s hard for a regular consumer to remove them safely. In most cases, consumers who take a shot at it, end up damaging the battery and end up risking their safety.

If you want a few examples of these kinds of products, the most obvious ones would be batteries used in automobiles and energy storage. If the need for recycling arises for these batteries, contact the dealer or the manufacturer to recycle them.

Precautions When Disposing Lithium Batteries

We’ve already established the fact that if you don’t know what you’re doing, you should not take it upon yourself to recycle lithium batteries. Your first instinct should always be to leave it to the professionals.

Precautions When Disposing Lithium Batteries
Precautions When Disposing Lithium Batteries

However, there are still some steps that you can take to keep yourself safe. We’ll be seeing what those steps are in this section.

Storage of the Batteries

If the battery is easy to remove, you need to store it in a dry and cool place. Take care to make sure that the battery is not in contact with water when you’re doing so.

If the battery is damaged or if you accidentally damaged it while removing the battery, you should place it inside an insulated bag to avoid it from short circuiting. If you fail to do so, the battery has a high chance of catching on fire.

Avoid Contact with Fire

And take extra care to not place the battery near a fire. Lithium batteries can explode violently if they are exposed to open fire. It can cause serious damage to anyone near it.

Keep Away from Small Children

Children have a habit of putting everything inside their mouths. The elements used to construct the batteries are toxic. Under no circumstances should they be ingested. Keep small children away from the batteries if you want to avoid this from happening.

Don’t Put Batteries in a Metal Box

Lithium batteries should never be kept in a metal box or container. The metal of the container can short circuit the battery which will cause the battery to catch on fire. This is another one of the reasons why we recommended storing the batteries inside an insulated container.

Conclusion

We hope that this article helped you understand the dangers that come with a lithium battery. We’ve shown different ways that you can deal with the recycling process. If you follow the things that we mentioned here, you won’t have to run into any sort of problems.

If you’re confused or worried about doing things yourself, you should consider taking it to a recycling facility. When it comes to sensitive things like lithium batteries, it’s always better to stay safe than be sorry.

Check out our other articles, if you want to learn more about lithium batteries.

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