Batteries and Sustainability

Bright colorful batteries that are being carefully recycled for sustainability purposes.

Just in the United States alone, the average person throws out about 8 batteries per year. While this might not seem like a lot, multiply that by the population of the United States and you have over 2 and a half billion batteries thrown away each year.

We can’t just stop using batteries. We use dry-cell batteries for many everyday items such as flashlights and remotes, lead-acid batteries for vehicles and back-up power, and lithium-ion batteries for many applications, such as in the automotive and medical industry. As technology continues to advance, batteries are becoming more useful and relevant, and the rise of interest in sustainability has especially increased the popularity of recycling.

Why Can’t Batteries Just be Thrown Away?

There are many reasons why batteries shouldn’t just be simply thrown away with general waste. The most common reason: contamination and pollution. While batteries contain fewer toxic materials than those produced in the past, they can still pose hazards when discarded in the trash.

Lithium ion batteries are known to be made with fewer toxic metals, but they do contain a flammable electrolyte that can cause fires if damaged or heated. Damage to batteries can also cause leakage of toxic chemicals that can contaminate groundwater, damage ecosystems, and possibly get into our food chain.

Another reason why batteries shouldn’t just be thrown away is because batteries are made with valuable materials that can be recycled. The main recyclable materials in lithium-ion batteries include cobalt, nickel, and copper, lead for lead-acid batteries, and zinc, manganese, and steel for dry-cell batteries. This can give a second life to these resources, which can help with scarcity and expenses.

What is SAE J 3071?

SAE J 3071-2016 provides various methods of automotive recycling identification and cross-contamination prevention. This standard provides information but does not necessarily specify a particular solution. Rechargeable Energy Storage System (RESS) devices are the types of batteries that are addressed in this standard and does not apply to non-rechargeable batteries. This standard can be applied to automotive, commercial and industrial applications.

What is SAE J 2974?

This standard specifically addresses vehicle batteries when they are ready to be disposed of and recycled. SAE J 2974-2019 provides many current recycling technologies and flow sheets and details how to apply them to different battery chemistries. This standard’s contents are most applicable to Lithium-Ion batteries and can generally be applied to other Rechargeable Energy Storage System (RESS) devices.

Both of these standards address the growing interest and relevancy of batteries in our technology- and sustainability-advancing world. Utilizing these standards in the application of recycling batteries can help with reducing pollution as well as reusing valuable materials.

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