Today I had a phone call from Mary in Christchurch who was querying what to do with some spent AA batteries she had lying around. It inspired me to update the information in the Guide on the subject, and reproduce it here…
The main issue with batteries is the heavy metals contained within them.
Disposable, or alkaline, batteries used to contain a lot of mercury, however that has changed with many manufacturers now using none at all. Unfortunately, because there are no valuable materials in a ‘disposable’ battery, (meaning that there is no recycling stream for them), they can still do a lot of damage if not disposed of probably, and currently, that involves encasing them in concrete before sending to landfill!
A market does exist for recycling rechargeable batteries such as; lithium, l-ion, and NiMh. However, if you are concerned about recycling your batteries, you are probably also eager to make sure the folk doing this are not adversely affected by handling the toxic materials. The Basel Convention requires signatories to ensure hazardous materials are disposed of safely and correctly. As such, batteries collected for recycling in NZ, are sent to developed countries like Korea for processing.
It is not recommended to use rechargeables in your smoke alarms, and we found ours protested noisily when we tried to! Other than that we have found rechargeables to be a great investment and now we’re on board with the habit of recharging we wouldn’t go back.
So, how do you go about ensuring your batteries end up in the right spot? Well there are are a few organisations in NZ who accept batteries and other hazardous materials for recycling. For example, Interwaste collect both types of batteries and charge a fee for disposing or recycling them. In the case of alkaline batteries they charge $3.95/kg to encase them in concrete and transport to the landfill. For rechargable type batteries they charge $5.95/kg to transport them to Korea for processing.
The next obvious question is how to get around paying to dispose of your batteries? Head to a Sony or Battery World store. Both retailers accept batteries and will forward them to Interwaste and pay the fee themselves. Or, before we all go running off to hand in our one or two spent batteries, you might want to consider employing this fantastic idea from Ellen and her partner in your workplace;
“We converted two old cardboard boxes by making a slit on top and putting some battery pics all over and our names if people had questions. We put the boxes in highly frequented spots and our colleagues have started to use this for their dead batteries. This ensures that people who have only a few batteries (not worth going to the drop off station for many reasons) recycle their batteries and we just make a trip to the Hazmobile (Auckland) every 6 months – and then it is worth it, we get rid of probably 40kg of batteries, most of which would have ended up in the rubbish.”
Ellen mentions Auckland’s HazMobile service which collects hazardous household waste such as batteries, chemicals and fluorescent lamps. If you’re outside Auckland, your local authority can advise you on local battery collectors and recyclers.