Efforts to recycle batteries – Part II

April 14th, 2011

This entry on efforts to recycle batteries is a follow-up to my previous entry.

I got a chance to speak to Alvin from Battizer the other day. He was very kind to answer some of the burning questions I had about recycling batteries.

Battizer was previously involved in a charity project where they recharged household alkaline batteries (conventionally not rechargeable) for donation to charity organizations. Battizer was able to do so using a recharger prototype (one of its kind here in Singapore, at least for now) that it developed for alkaline batteries. However, there were some difficulties. About 60% of the batteries were wasted because some were damaged, expired or were leaking (and the leak damaged other functional batteries). The batteries had to be properly handled (opposite polarities can’t touch), otherwise it would affect their recharging potential. Because the collection process was resource intensive, the project was eventually stopped. Since then, Battizer has refined the prototype of the alkaline battery recharger, and it is now available in stores like D.I.Y. According to Alvin, some schools in Singapore are making use of the alkaline battery charger to recharge some of their batteries.

Since I read that rechargeable batteries (they are often Nickel Metal Hydride batteries or Nickel Cadium batteries, and Cadium and Metal Hydrides are toxic) are more toxic than non rechargeable one (i.e. the alkaline batteries), I was very happy to hear about the recharger for the alkaline batteries. But when I asked Alvin if recharging alkaline batteries was the greener thing to do, he said no. The greener thing to do would still be to use rechargeable batteries, or minimize the use of batteries in the first place!

It seems like alkaline batteries can only be recharged for 5 to 10 times before they have to be disposed of, whereas conventional rechargeable batteries can be charged for many as 1000 times (though usually these batteries spoil from mishandling before they can be recharged a thousand times). Hence, the use of rechargeable batteries help to reduce the number of batteries that need to be disposed of.

As mentioned in my previous entry, on the issue of battery disposal, NEA’s approach is to control mercury pollution by batteries by limiting the mercury content of batteries that are sold in Singapore and filtering the toxic gases that are produced from incinerating the batteries. Even if these approaches are to help reduce pollution by batteries to a minimum, there is still a pollution concern if our people do not dispose of their batteries properly (i.e. in the rubbish bin). Rechargeable or non rechargeable batteries that are thrown into drains, rivers or the sea, or dumped onto soil will continue to pollute our environment through the leaking of toxic chemicals.

To cope with the toxicity of rechargeable batteries and the short lifespan of non rechargeable batteries, Alvin shared with me that Battizer has developed a new type of household batteries — Nickel Zinc rechargeable batteries.

Nickel Zinc batteries are not new. According to Wikipedia, Thomas Edison was awarded a U.S. Patent for a rechargeable nickel-zinc battery system in in 1901. Nickel Zinc are also lower in cost,

Nickel Zinc batteries have higher voltages (~1.6 to 1.8V), as compared to its Nickel Cadium or Nickel Metal Hydride counterparts (~1.2 to 1.5V). This higher voltage has the advantage of requiring a smaller current through appliances, and hence helping to reduce occurrences of appliance motors melting as a result of overly high currents.

Nickel Zinc batteries are more environmentally friendly. They do not contain toxic metals like mercury, lead, cadmium or metal hydrides, which are also difficult to recycle. On the other hand, Nickel and Zinc are commonly occurring elements in nature and can be fully recycled. Nickel Zinc batteries also do not contain flammable materials.

In fact, Nickel Zinc batteries are not only good alternatives to household batteries. They also have the potential to replace lead acid batteries. These Nickel Zinc batteries have the advantage of having higher energy-to-mass ratio and higher power-to-mass ratio, especially when compared to lead acid batteries. This means that the batteries are 75% lighter for the same amount of power released.

So maybe for us extensive battery users out there, it is time to consider switching to rechargeable Nickel Zinc batteries, rather than use non rechargeable alkaline batteries or rechargeable but toxic Nickel Cadium or Nickel Metal Hydrides batteries.

And hopefully, one day, Singapore would be able to send its used batteries for recycling (used batteries used to be collected in Singapore, until the single company doing the collection closed down). In this way, useful materials like Nickel could be retrieved and reuse, and we can reduce the trash we generate, and contribute less to global warming.

If you have any experience with the use of the Nickel Zinc batteries, please do share with me. I would love to hear about your experience.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 14th, 2011 at 4:10 pm and is filed under Developments in Green Technology, Recycling Resources. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

9 Responses to “Efforts to recycle batteries – Part II”

  1. paTrick Goh Says:

    There is a website: http://www.batteryback.org/
    which has information with regards to all types of batteries in the UK.
    Is there any subsidy that our Government is handing out for anyone interested in this area of recycling which is just as important as starting any other volunteering work help the less fortunate? In caring for the environment which we live in we are also caring each and everyone human being, whether the fortunate or the less fortunate. The recycling of portable batteries is a concern since it is an everyday usage.
    No doubt there is the rechargeable type but unless there is a total recall and stoppage of the production of the non-rechargeable types then it does make sense to have an in-depth study into the recycling of these batteries.

  2. Tiffaney Bekele Says:

    Just a short message I read about A fantastic service for the disposal of All whiteware and appliances as well as electronics and freezers for recycling.Heres the details Appliance Recycling Ltd 5A Beasley Ave Penrose (09) 377 7037 or 027 272 9308

  3. Lennellie Says:

    I’ve about 10 household batteries to recycle as well as a few laptop batteries. What do I do with them? (+65) 97897188

  4. Love4Gaia.com Says:

    Hi, Lennellie, at the moment, it seems like there’s no avenue (that we know of) to recycle our used household batteries in Singapore. When we contacted Singapore Environment Council to ask about the matter, we were told that batteries could be “safely” discarded into the rubbish bin (read the details at http://www.love4gaia.com/recycling-batteries/).

    As for your laptop batteries, may you can try handing them over to the service centers of the respective laptop companies (eg. Fujitsu, Dell, HP customer service centres, etc). I believe many of these centres take back used batteries for recycling.

  5. Siao Yean Says:

    Thank you for the info!
    I went online to search for answers to dispose my used batteries in an environmentally-friendly manner. Grateful to find your site and that u have done the research. Great job!
    I am disappointed to find that there are no avenues in Sg to do this though.. Really hope the Sg Govt can do something about this soon.

  6. Yin Yee Says:

    Thanks for a well-researched article that addresses the concerns of environmentally-conscious residents of Singapore! Am very disappointed to hear that there are no avenues for recycling batteries at present, but thank you for providing an alternative which is better for the environment! Will be looking through your website for more ways to live responsibly. Kudos!

  7. Ed Says:

    I’m also quite disappointed that there’s no recycle of batteries in SG. In HongKong, battery collection boxes are in every MRT station. As I go to HK frequently, now I just save them up and drop them off there.

  8. Yen-ling Says:

    Thank you for the post. I was wondering how to dispose of the batteries in my office and house too.
    And I found there are some organisations that collect other e-wastes:

  9. Love4Gaia.com Says:

    Thanks for sharing, Yen-ling.

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