E-waste-ful

Our friends at ‘Recycle A Phone’, posted a very interesting article the other day about smart-phones and the Lithium-ion batteries used in them. We haven’t really discussed specific varieties of batteries and their associated devices much. Smart-phones are a particularly prevalent issue involved in e-waste, because of their rising popularity and relatively high turn-over.

Smartphones use Lithium-ion batteries which are more environmentally friendly to mine and process. Old phones use Nickel based batteries and are more harmful to the environment. I feel like one the positives about Lithium-ion batteries is also the negatives. In Australia, we have a large resource of Lithium (for now), this also means recycling them is not economically viable as it costs less to mine new Lithium.

I think this is very indicative of the industry’s attitudes towards to recycling. It’s more about what is financially sound in the present than looking toward the future and saving resources. But Lithium prices are rising and are set to keep rising. As new phones are created and developed, so will demand and eventually your stunning new iPhone 5s will look like the Nokia 2100. (Remember this baby?… snake II anyone?)

Sourced: www.eliedh.com

There are options out there for instance, as I’ve mentioned before Mobile Muster. Also, if you’ve watched our video post (here) you’ll know that Sydney City Council offers recycling for phones, batteries and old light-globes.

The article also mentioned some great tips about saving your phones battery life. Although I keep harking on about recycling, extending a batteries life is also part of limiting the amount we go through. My favourites of the article where:

  • Don’t let your phone drop below 20%
  • Don’t charge your battery overnight

To find out why these are important make sure you visit the article.

Mobile phones as well as computers, TV’s and batteries are classified as e-waste (electronic waste) and is the world’s fastest growing waste stream, rising 3-5% a year.  It’s crazy how much time and money we invest in developing new products without tapping into the resource of materials we already have.

What do you guys think? Should mobile phone brands be re-using materials of old phones to make new ones? How many of you recycled your old phone the last time you upgraded?

-Lexie

Poll Results!

We’ve tallied the results of our first Recharge the Environment poll and the winner is… (drum roll)

Compulsory battery stewardship for producers! The runner up, recycle used batteries with regular recycling.

So what are the pros and cons of these and how could Australia implement them as realistic recycling options?

First, compulsory battery stewardship has been mentioned a lot on the blog and is part of the reason why Lilly and I began Recharge the Environment. Some of the feedback we got from the poll was that people didn’t understand what this entailed.

In a nutshell, product stewardship is when producers of a product take responsibility of what happens to their products throughout their lifecycle. It’s an increasingly important issue as many products we buy have very short life spans, especially electronic products. It means being environmentally and finically responsible for what happens to their products even after they are taken off the shelves. Specifically with batteries, this is important because of high toxicity and likelihood of leakage after use. This is also a large issue because of the lack of understanding among Australians and the low rate of proper disposal. Making companies responsible means they must provide free and safe ways for their customers to recycle their products.

At the moment Australia is undergoing the process of implementing voluntary stewardship  But we feel this does not go far enough. If battery companies wanted to take full responsibility they would have already. Thus making it compulsory (or as I talked about in this post, giving the incentive) for companies is the only real way to make real changes in the industry.

The second most popular option was, recycling used batteries with our regular recycling. This is most certainly the easiest for consumers as it requires the least amount of effort and is already a well established habit for all household and businesses in Australia.

There are several problems that come up with this option. We cannot put our used batteries in our recycling bins. Firstly, it will contaminate the materials that we already recycle. Secondly, it may become a hazard for people who work in the recycling industry. Batteries in Australia are classified as hazardous waste and therefore require specific permits and ways of transportation.

Lilly and I had a discussion about this recently and thought of two ways that this could be implemented.

a)  A separate bin for ALL batteries types. This requires creating an entirely new waste pick-up system, which in itself would very difficult and expensive.

b) A program similar to Mobile Muster, which provides appropriate storage containers to every household.

Mobile Muster, is a product stewardship campaign and one which has had positive result and industry support. In fact when I bought a phone the other day there was a bag inside advertising mobile muster, in which I could put any old phones, batteries and charges and recycle for free at designated drop-off point.

Considering the rising number of  drop-off points in Australia for batteries, I think we are well on our way to responsible use. Maybe what we need is a combination of initiatives? Still it comes down to us, the consumer, the public, because at the end of the day producers and the government have to respond to what we want!

As always guys, stay mindful and tell your friends… Lets recharge the environment together!

In the spirit of recycling hopefully this wil brighten up your Sunday!

35w6ja

-Lexie

Exciting Battery Recycling Developments

Leading on from Lexie’s last post, today I am going to discuss some exciting developments in the battery recycling process that can make the process more cost affective, and less dangerous.

First up, is Swedish based Optisort who have created a self-learning optical sorting system for end-of-life batteries. Sorting batteries is extremely important, as they each hold different chemicals, and therefore must be recycled differently. Optisort’s classification system can sort up to 20 batteries a second (so fast!). With a 99% accuracy level, what this means is that recycling batteries is now easier than ever.

OnTo Technology is a company based in America that is doing research into the rejuvenation of Lithium-Ion batteries. Their aim is to create safe ways to harvest materials and place them back into service.

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Check out a video from Bloomberg on OnTo here.

With these two technologies, the future for recycling batteries looks relatively easy, environmentally friendly, and ethical.

Do you know of any other developments in the recycling industry?

Also, if you haven’t already, please take part in our poll!

- Lilly