Recycling batteries in Singapore

March 29th, 2011

I have always read about how the proper disposal of batteries is important. Batteries contain many toxic chemicals, including heavy metals. When they are not properly disposed of, the toxic chemicals could leach into the environment. For example, if they are buried directly in landfills, the chemicals could leach into the soil, and may even reach our water bodies (eg. seas). If they are incinerated, the harmful chemicals could be released in the form of fumes into the atmosphere.

The dangers brought about by the improper disposal of batteries makes the recycling of batteries crucial. In fact, in the United Kingdom, since 1 Feb 2010, battery sellers have been required to provide recycling containers for users to return their used batteries. All distributors that sell 32kg or more of portable batteries in a year are required to provide a take-back facility free of charge for consumers. Read more about the initiative.



So when I needed to dispose of my used AA batteries this morning, I went in search for a place to recycle them in Singapore.

From a 2002 news article online, I got the contacts of the Singapore Environment Council (SEC, a non-profit, non-government organization). It was involved in a battery recycling project “Mad About Batteries” in 2002.

Unfortunately, when I contacted SEC, I was informed that Singapore does not recycle used household batteries (however, there are avenues to recycle notebook batteries with organizations such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard, and hand-phone batteries with Nokia and Motorola). According to the lady that I spoke to, the reason given by NEA (National Environment Agency, government agency in charge of recycling matters) for not recycling household batteries was the cost.

The set up of a household battery recycling facility is expensive. There may not be sufficient supply of batteries to sustain the facility (especially since Singaporeans are not yet into the habit of recycling; read a recent article on Singaporean’s recycling habits). Cost is involved if we are to ship our used batteries overseas, but more importantly, the transportation process would contribute to carbon emissions and there is a danger of pollution through leaks from the batteries during the process. Read more about the household battery recycling problems.

In view of these problems, the approach supposedly taken by NEA is to restrict the mercury content in all household batteries sold here. Since 1992, a limit of 0.001 per cent (by weight of mercury) has been imposed on the mercury-oxide batteries and zinc-carbon batteries, and a limit of 0.025 per cent for alkaline batteries. By restricting the mercury content in household batteries, it becomes supposedly safe for us to dispose of the household batteries in our normal rubbish bins. The batteries will then be incinerated at plants that have air pollution control equipments to ensure that emissions from the incinerators are clean and meet stipulated standards. Read NEA’s reply to a public query on battery recycling in 2008.

So it seems that Singapore won’t be recycling our used batteries in the near future.

I asked myself what I am to do with the used batteries I have at hand. The easy way out would be to assume that NEA would take care of the pollution problem after I dispose of the batteries in the normal rubbish bin.

But isn’t it so easy to just rely on our government agencies to settle our problems? Is there no more that can be done?

One of the things I was told that could help the situation is definitely to use less batteries — both non-chargeable (primary battery) and rechargeable (secondary battery) ones. But given the many portable appliances today that require batteries, it would be hard not to use them at all.

The use of rechargeable batteries has its complications — rechargeable batteries are more toxic than non-chargeable ones. However, the several non-chargeable batteries you have to use in place of that single rechargeable battery could contain the same amount of toxic chemicals, if not more. So how now?

It seems that there is a “recent” invention that could allow for the recharging of previously non-rechargeable batteries. An online contributor, Jeffery Ong, shared his good experience using such a charger from the company “Battizer“. When I went on the website, I found they had previously started projects to collect used batteries for recharging. Seems like there’s hope!

I have managed to contact someone from Battizer to find out more about the battery recycling project. I will share more about it in my subsequent blog entry.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 at 4:03 am 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.

13 Responses to “Recycling batteries in Singapore”

  1. PenaltyKillah Says:

    Aww, crap. I was saving 8 used AA batteries for recycling and there isn’t any in Singapore? But I don’t want to dump them, and I’m not one of those made-from-recycled-material artists ^^;

  2. Love4Gaia.com Says:

    Yes, unfortunately, there isn’t any such recycling services in Singapore at the moment. I too had been hoarding several used batteries at home waiting to recycle them, until I was advised to just dump them into the bin. Let’s hope that one day, Singapore recycles enough to have our own battery recycling facility like overseas.

  3. Lentilka Says:

    Oh, I just found your blog (very nice article btw) and I also have a stash of batteries in my drawer. We have moved in here from abroad so my batteries have a large ‘do not bin’ sign on it :-( ( really don’t know what to do….

  4. Nippon Recycle Center Corp. Says:

    Dear All

    We, Nippon Recycler Center Corp. have been engaged in the work for recycling various types of rechargeable batteries such as Ni-Cd Battery, Ni-MH Battery and Li-Ion Battery in Osaka, Japan. We also take a note that Singapore Govt. does not control such end-of-life rechargeable batteries. So we feel difficult to collect them in Singapore by our own. If the end-of-life batteries are collected, sorted and ready to ship, we can take it at one shot. Does anyone know such a collecting comapny in Singapore !?

    Best regards,
    Kikumi Motoyama
    Nippon Recycle Center Corp.

  5. Claudia Says:

    Thank you for this article, I was hopping to find better news that the ones that you gave to us… It really is a shame that such country as Singapore do not care about such important environmental issues! I have 2 AA non-chargeable that are already dropping off liquid. Being aware of the toxicity of it, it will be very hard to just drop them into the bin without getting concern about all the damages that it will cause to our planet – with all the other batteries that everyday are thrown away…

  6. Xiaowen Says:

    Same for me. I have quite a few end-of-life AA batteries from tooth brush, remote control, etc. But I feel really bad to just throw it in the general bin even though I still haven’t been able to find any way for me to recycle my battery.
    There was one time our office building (around 28 floors) was having a campaign for recycling Nokia phone battery. I immediately contacted them hoping that they might be able/will able to recycle normal AA or AAA battery. Well they said no, and they have explored before but haven’t been able to get any recycling company to do battery recycling.
    I won’t be able to comfortably throw the batteries away even knowing there is no other way. What a shame. I am from China and we have battery recycling points in my city….

  7. Alan Says:

    I use batteries for work almost daily so u can imagine the amount I go thru, INSEAD at Ayer Rajah has an in house recycling point which includes a used battery collection bin, they used to be a client of mine n till recently, I would put aside my dead n mortally wounded batts to dispose of them there, unfortunately they have decided to terminate my services so it’s not appropriate for me to visit their premises even though I’ve not found an alternative batt disposal site in Sg. Quite ridiculous that a country as supposedly Green as Sg could overlook something like this

  8. Betcour Says:

    FYI the French school has a small recycling bin for batteries in its main hall.

  9. Marcus Tay Says:

    “One of the things I was told that could help the situation is definitely to use less batteries — both non-chargeable (primary battery) and rechargeable (secondary battery) ones. But given the many portable appliances today that require batteries, it would be hard not to use them at all.”

    Why is that so? Because rechargeable batteries are more expensive?

    The list of recycling vendors listed on SEC page: http://www.sec.org.sg/gogreen/recycling

    shows that HP collects rechargeable batteries for recycling though I have yet to confirm that.

    Still, I am still using my first batch of rechargeable batteries from 10 years ago – though now the power is so low that I use it for remote controls rather than high discharge devices like digital cameras.

    It is probably too much effort but it will be interesting to ask the french school where does the batteries collected go to? Any website information? Do they export it for recycling?

    As for ewaste recycling like batteries recycling, much of it ends up in cities like Guiyu – http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1870162,00.html

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. – REDUCE use of disposable batteries before recycling them.

  10. Love4Gaia.com Says:

    Hi, Marcus,

    thanks for pointing out the list of recycling vendors on NEA’s website. Think it will be useful to those who are interested to find out what happens to many of the recyclables in Singapore.

    However, I suspect that the recyclable batteries that HP collects are those for laptops etc. If you are able to verify, can let me know?

  11. Lisa Says:

    Dear All

    I am happy to see there are some people concerning recycling of battery in Singapore. I am thinking a project about it. Anyone interested please contact me through my email lis_wang@hotmail.com.

    Thanks

  12. Chappy Says:

    Dear all, it has been a few years since the publishing of this post, are there any new battery recycling spots? I really hope there is one so we can save the environment, we really need to reconsider our ways of disposal.

  13. Nick Says:

    Chappy, I too have a jar full of batteries looking for a recycling opportunity.

    A ten minute search online tells me Singapore is still resisting full recycling of batteries, indeed some see e.g. https://bernhan.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/why-does-singapore-not-recycle-batteries/ consider that incineration is fine. I am skeptical, including the argument about cost (what cost destruction of the environment?) but don’t have good evidence to hand to properly rebut that view.

    This article offers a different view (closer to mine) http://wildsingaporenews.blogspot.sg/2010/01/singapore-not-ready-for-battery.html#.VKVAoXt8u2k. The closest I get to a solution is in this article: http://www.nus.edu.sg/oes/prog/waste/e-Waste_i-Recycle_faqs.html which states: “Q3: Can I drop-off batteries for recycling?

    “A3: Yes you can, if they are lithium ion batteries, eg. handphone, camera and other rechargeable batteries.

    For alkaline batteries like AA, AAA batteries, Singapore currently does not have any alkaline battery recycling facilities due to high costs of recycling and insufficient supply of used batteries to make such a recycling scheme viable. Hence, like other general waste, used batteries are sent to incineration plants for disposal. Click here [as of 1 January 2014 this click didn't go anywhere] for more information.”

    regards
    Nick

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