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.
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!