Alkaline batteries can be safely disposed of with normal household waste…
Our alkaline batteries are composed primarily of common metals—steel, zinc, and manganese—and do not pose a health or environmental risk during normal use or disposal.
This struck me as odd. Considering most, if not all the information I had read online had suggested that all the metals used in batteries could be harmful to people and the environment.
According to a study on the life cycle of alkaline batteries, alkaline batteries are prone to potassium hydroxide leaks, a caustic agent that can cause respiratory, skin and eye irritation.
I’m hesitant to suggest that Duracell is wrong in telling their customers that their batteries can be disposed of without risk. And Duracell do say that batteries with other chemistries, like lithium, lithium ion and zinc should be recycled. I think what it highlights is a larger problem. Battery producers are unwilling to take full responsibility for the disposal of their products.
There has been a significant shift in the materials used. None of the large battery companies like Energizer or Duracell use heavy metals in their household batteries, eliminating magnesium, cadmium. But it seems that most battery producers use environmental consciousness as a PR scheme rather than a real world social and/or business initiative. For one, on Energizer’s Australian website, I could not find any instructions or suggestions for consumers to dispose or recycle. Neither do any producers seem interested in collecting their own batteries after life for reuse.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The Australian Battery Initiative was set up in 2008 as a not-for-profit organisation that works with government and industry representatives to campaign for national recycling schemes. This year, a workshop was held in Brisbane to focus on the development of public policy making that would encourage consumers and producers to recycle. As with most things, these types of campaigns take time so it’s not clear of any major developments have arisen.
Personally, I believe Australia has a long way to go, I also believe it’s up to the individual. As consumers we have power, if want something, generally business will deliver. It’s up to us to pressure battery producers to invest in recycling schemes and change our behaviour on a national scale. We cannot be latent or ignorant, protecting the environment and scarce natural resources is not just about the future it’s about now.