In today’s fast-paced world, it is impossible to survive without the necessary electrical appliances. Not only do these appliances add to our convenience, but they also bring efficiency into our lives.
As crucial as these appliances are, they must run smoothly and effectively. Most of these machines run on lithium batteries (including many common household items such as cell and batteries). Lithium batteries are high in quality and perfect when it comes to enhancing the performance of electronic devices.
However, these batteries must be handled with a considerable amount of care because they can prove extremely dangerous when mishandled. If not treated with care, a lithium battery can quickly start a fire, cause pollution, and result in other unpleasant incidents that will unfold as the article progresses.
The problem arises when people have a hard time determining whether or not it is a lithium battery they are dealing with. Well, identifying a lithium battery is relatively simple.
Each lithium battery available in the marketplace has a mark on it. The stamp is either inscribed on the battery or printed on the sticker.
Why Is It Tricky to Process Lithium Batteries as E-Waste?
Another question that gets asked frequently is why it is difficult to process a lithium battery as other electronic waste.
There are three main reasons behind this difficulty.
Difficult to Remove
A lithium battery is tightly bonded to hardware, which might make the removal process even harder.
While dismantling a lithium battery, it is relatively easy for the person to damage it. This is why, when dismantling a lithium battery, the right set of skills, experience, tools, and controls are required.
As discussed above, high temperatures are one of the significant causes behind fire hazards in lithium batteries.
To minimize the chances of a fire incident or the release of harmful chemicals and gases, the cells need to be discharged before they are removed. Unlike traditional batteries, the likelihood of a fire incident in lithium batteries is relatively higher.
To process waste batteries, the treatment facilities need to possess the necessary permits, issued by higher authorities.
How to Dispose of Lithium Batteries (The Right Way)
When it comes to disposal of lithium batteries, the methods of disposal for consumers differ from those for professionals.
Let’s discover the two different ways of disposing of lithium batteries.
Lithium Battery Disposal Method for Consumers
Before disposing of your lithium battery, right of the bat, remember that they can always be recycled. However, the recycling of these batteries should only be done at treatment facilities that have the legal permit for the task.
When discarding an old lithium battery, abstain from disposing of it at the local dumpster or junkyard. A lithium battery is a complex piece of machinery that should only be disposed of at a battery recycling drop off, or an e-waste recycling point.
Before discarding a lithium battery, you can’t afford to ignore the possibility of an electrical hazard. Therefore, utmost care should be taken. High-performance batteries can give off an electric shock due to their high voltage.
Lithium Battery Disposal for Professionals
If you are a professional, make sure you protect the lithium battery from extreme temperatures or exposure to the sunlight. These batteries should neither be exposed to water or moisture.
Take extra care when handling these batteries and pack them in a way that the safety casing is not damaged. Such incidents are not uncommon when batteries are packed without protective layering, or placed underneath a hefty object.
Before discarding, make sure the batteries have been fully discharged. Also, the cores should never come into contact with one another. If they do, the battery can easily rupture, catch fire, and even explode.
Lithium batteries are made up of recyclable materials if done the right way. Some of those recyclable materials are as follows.
- Ferrous metal
- Metal compounds
Benefits of Recycling Lithium Batteries
Rather than discarding them, recycling lithium batteries can prove beneficial to you and your surroundings. Recycling of lithium batteries helps extract materials that could be harmful to the environment, and use them for better purposes.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of recycling lithium batteries.
Abiding By Environmental Regulations
According to federal law, lithium batteries and acid batteries should be recycled.
In most states, before recycling, a battery needs to be taken to a hazardous waste disposal area. Failure to abide by the rules can result in some hefty fines.
Keeping Landfills Safe
As discussed above, lithium batteries contain several heavy metals. If released, not only do they affect human lives but the environment at large.
When thrown into landfills, these batteries can corrode. Corrosion allows harmful chemicals to get leached into the ground. You may not realize it, but these chemicals can easily find their way into our water supply.
Leached chemicals can cause underground fire, which continues to burn for years, releasing smoke, which adds to global warming. Recycling helps in keeping these chemicals from ending up in landfills in the first place.
Conservation of Resources
To manufacture batteries, materials such as lithium and cobalt are needed. When the manufacturers fall short of these raw materials, they have no other option but to mine.
By recycling old batteries, one can easily make up for the required raw materials. As a result, the earth’s natural resources can be conserved and saved for future use.
Promotion of Material Reuse
As discussed above, the recycling of a battery provides raw materials that are used to make more batteries. With time, the cost of raw materials has been on the rise.
As a result, the prices of batteries in the market are also spiking. However, by utilizing materials from old batteries, not only can one conserve raw materials, but it also keeps the prices of batteries from rising.
Do’s and Dont’s with Lithium Batteries
So, whether you are a producer or a distributor of lithium batteries, the following dos and don’ts will help you keep your lithium battery safe.
Let’s take a look at a list of things that you should or should not do with electrical appliances that contain lithium batteries.
Let’s break it down.
- Before you move further with material recovery, make sure the batteries are removed from their devices and kept at a safe and dry place.
- If you have a hard time removing these batteries from the devices, it is best to assign this task to a professional. However, before moving forward, make sure the professional possesses the legal permit to execute such tasks.
- Lithium batteries are one of the primary perpetrators behind incidents of short circuit. Make sure the terminals are adequately insulated.
- The batteries should be packaged in boxes and barrels that have been approved by the UN. In the case of Lithium-ion batteries, use dry sand. If there are any other forms of batteries, vermiculite will do just fine.
- Make sure to follow the UN-prescribed methods for damaged packaging and extra packaging for swollen or leaky batteries.
- Make sure never to dispose of lithium batteries with your everyday waste.
- Never crush, break, or damage the batteries in any way. Your slightest mistakes could bring the electrodes together, resulting in a short circuit.
- Never keep damaged and undamaged batteries in the same place.
- Abstain from keeping a significant number of batteries without any segregation. Doing so, you will pave the way for a fire or a similar lethal incident.
- Never keep damaged lithium-ion batteries inside, for they are more prone to short-circuiting ad catching fire.
When it comes to disposing of lithium batteries, one of the questions that get frequently asked is why a lithium battery can’t be disposed of with other industrial or chemical waste.
Well, the answer is quite simple. Lithium batteries contain a variety of chemicals. If disposed of with your everyday industrial and chemical waste can lead to pollution and resource wastage. Furthermore, lithium is reactive and extremely uncontrollable. Here are some of the things that can harm a lithium battery.
- High Temperatures
- Excessive charging
- Short circuit
- Unnecessary strain
Any of the factors mentioned above can have an exothermic reaction. An exothermic reaction is the one that results in a release of light and heat energy from the battery.
In simple terms, an exothermic reaction can set a battery on fire, which can be extremely dangerous to the surroundings. This is one of the many reasons airlines discourage carrying lithium batteries with other baggage.
The design of a lithium battery contains a sheet of polypropylene. This thin sheet tends to separate the electrodes, thus minimizing the possibility of a short circuit.
However, if a battery is damaged, the layer separating the electrodes can easily be breached. When that happens, a short circuit is inevitable.
The magnitude of the thermal reactions depends upon the size of the battery. Similarly, a discarded battery can set the adjacent flammable objects on fire, quite easily.
A lithium battery is a highly reactive device that must be handled with care. Whether you are a professional or a consumer, make sure to protect it from moisture, heat, and sunlight.
If treated with carelessness, a lithium battery can catch fire and even explode. Considering the dangers a lithium battery can bring about, it is best to take to a local hazardous waste disposal area and have it recycled than dumped.
Not only will recycling help protect the environment, but it will also provide the raw materials for the production of more batteries, thus saving natural resources and keeping the prices of batteries low.
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