Why Should We Recycle Batteries?

Part 2

When I first became interested in our cause, I had a rough idea about the impact of the chemicals used in batteries. In particular, the iconic ‘Mad Hatter’ of Alice in Wonderland makes the impact of the element mercury stick in my mind. The character was inspired by a phenomenon in the 1800s where mercury was used in the making of hats. This exposed many mercury poisoning, which involves neurological damage.

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Still from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (1951)

Yet, when my co-campaigner Lexie came across this article about a child dying from ingesting a lithium battery, I was horrified and became determined to know more about the chemicals used in batteries.

This leads us to the second, and somewhat more disturbing, reason why we should recycle batteries:

2. The Hazardous Affect of Batteries

Most batteries contain some substances that are hazardous like cadmium, mercury and lead.  Though these toxic substances are generally contained securely within the sealed battery, when disposed in landfill and left unsupervised, batteries corrode and leak these toxic chemicals into the environment.

This has a disastrous affect on the environment as these hazardous materials permeate the soil, groundwater and surface water. This means that they pollute our water, and in some cases, are taken up in the root systems of plants. This can endanger wildlife and people, who fall victim to ingesting these toxins unconsciously.  Alternatively, when these substances are burnt in municipal waste combustors, they become airborne which makes them all the more easy to inhale.

These chemicals can be extremely poisonous to people, and exposure can lead to massive health problems.  Cadmium, for example, can lead to kidney poisoning, respiratory problems and bone disease.  Exposure to this toxic chemical can be as easy as inhaling its fumes, or ingesting it. Mercury, on the other hand, can be absorbed through the skin. Due to bans and regulations, the use of both cadmium and mercury is decreasing, yet they continue to be used to produce batteries in Australia. Cadmium/nickel batteries are commonly used in Australia!

Ultimately, these reasons for why we should recycle batteries demonstrates that by recycling, valuable resources can be recovered that can otherwise act as extremely harmful substances.

Do you know of any other reasons as to why we should recycle batteries? Please share in the comments!

Lilly

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2 thoughts on “Why Should We Recycle Batteries?

  1. I didn’t have any idea that the chemical cadmium in the battery can actually lead to such major health problems! That’s pretty bad considering the number of batteries actually recycled is probably tiny compared to the number just chucked thoughtlessly into general waste. I guess another reason we should recycle batteries is just to cut down on the general waste that would take up most of our landfills. I’m sure all the batteries would form large proportion of the landfill. Making it easier to recycle batteries would probably make a significant reduction in general waste. Kind of an obvious point but I thought of it so I thought it would be good to add anyway.

    • This is so true Angela! Less than 5% of dead batteries are properly recycled every year – which definitely needs to change. In future blog posts, we are going to discuss different solutions for making battery recycling easier and how affective these are. We are also going to discuss what we can do now, with the different resources available. Thank you so much for your input!
      – Lilly

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