What is it?
Batteries store chemical energy which is converted to electricity and used as a portable power source. Single-use batteries are no longer useful once depleted of energy, while rechargeable alkaline batteries can be recharged around 50 times and nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries up to 1000 times. Automotive (lead acid) batteries, found in vehicles, equipment, and boats, can last approximately 4-5 years before they need to be replaced.
What is the issue?
Batteries contain metals that can be harmful to the environment. They can contain cadmium, lead, mercury, copper, zinc, manganese, lithium, or potassium, which are all hazardous to the environment and to human health. Also, improper disposable of old batteries can lead to leaking acid, fires, and small explosions. Batteries should not be placed in the garbage nor a residential recycling system as they can impact staff safety at both landfills and recycling sorting facilities.
Call2Recycle is one of the largest battery stewardship programs in North America. The program recycles rechargeable and single-use batteries up to 5kg in size, which is funded through Environmental Handling Fees (EHF) that are applied on the sale of these new batteries. Saskatchewan residents can drop off batteries for recycling at any SARCAN depot, at many retail stores and municipal sites. Collected items are then shipped to Call2Recycle's recycling partners. Check here to find the location nearest you.
The Canadian Battery Association was established in 1970 by the manufacturers of lead acid batteries to establish a voluntary, national stewardship program for end of life lead acid batteries. The program recycles all parts of the battery including the metal, electrolytes, and plastics and sells the resulting products as commodities on the market. In 2013, the Canadian Battery Association members recycled over 12.7 million kg of lead acid batteries, resulting in a 77.9% recovery rate. Most scrap metal dealers, landfills, transfer stations, and businesses that sell automotive batteries take them back for recycling. Check out our Waste Reduction Hub to find a drop-off location near you.
What happens after?
Lead Acid (Automotive): The battery is broken up and collected in a vat of water where the different materials are separated based on their density. The plastic gets scooped up, cleaned, and sent to a plastic recycler to become battery cases once again. The lead is melted, purified, and then sent to the battery manufacturers to be used in the production of new batteries.
Alkaline batteries (Household)*: The materials are recycled into steel and products like sun screen and concrete aggregate.
Nickel (Ni)*: Used Ni-Cd, Ni-MH and Ni-Zn batteries are recycled into new products such as silverware, pots & pans, golf clubs, and new batteries.
Lithium (Li)*: Used Li-Ion rechargeable batteries are recycled into steel, stainless steel, and new batteries. Single-use Lithium batteries are recycled into new products like silverware, stainless steel, golf clubs and new batteries.
*Call2Recycle "The Battery Recycling Journey" infographic
How can I reduce?
- Use rechargeable batteries instead of single-use batteries.
- Choose batteries containing less mercury, lead, and cadmium.
- Reduce the number of batteries you buy by purchasing things that plug in.