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

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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.

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 7.34.29 PM

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

Future innovations

Most of our posts have looked at why we need to recycle our used batteries. But limiting e-waste is not just about proper disposal. It’s also about minimising how many batteries we use.

The obvious answer? Rechargeables! These not only last longer, but can be used multiple times and cost less in the long run. There are also many cheap usb powered lights available, some costing as little at $3. But, in recent years many new technologies and innovations are popping up.

I thought I’d start with a fun one. A toy car that runs on sugar! This child’s toy runs on stuff kids love, but probably shouldn’t have too much of… soft drink! It’s developed by TOMY ENE Pocket and SONY, and it gives the perfect opportunity to trial this ‘bio-battery’. Speed and distance vary depending on what liquid is used, but apparently grape juice works best. There are also other bio-battery powered toys and devices in development including fans and hand-powered generators for lights.

This year a 15 year old girl from British Columbia invented a flashlight powered by the human hand. (Read and watch here) It uses thermal energy transferred through a human’s skin to the base of the torch which heats tiles inside a the tube. While it doesn’t create a very bright light, I think it suggests there is an untapped source of power within us all!

Source: Youtube

Source: Youtube

Fluidic Energy on behalf of Arizona State University has developed a zinc-air battery. Metal-air batteries have been around for about 100 years but have never been able to recharge. It uses ionic liquids (low temperature liquid salts) rather than water based electrolytes and reportedly has 11x the energy density than the best lithium-ion batteries. Designed to replace diesel gensets and lead-acid batteries, it is completely sustainable and contains no cadmium, mercury or fossil fuels making it one of the least toxic large-scale options available to industry.

I’m wondering whether any of our readers have stumbled upon any exciting new alternatives to battery power? Let us know in the comment section below. Or ask any questions you want answered in one of our post!

-Lexie