This photo shows 6 months worth of used batteries used by our family of 4. We don't have excessive amounts of battery operated items. These are mostly due to the Xbox cordless controllers and my Mac cordless mouse.
Guess how many there are here?
87. We have used 87 in 6 months. That is about 4 times the amount I would have estimated!
When I discovered that it wasn't safe to put batteries into the rubbish, I decided to collect them all to recycle instead. 6 months later I was shocked at just how many we had used.
Batteries should never be placed into your standard waste or recycling waste bins for roadside collection. But shockingly, less than 3% of all batteries purchased in Australia are currently being recycled.
Batteries are made up of heavy metals and other toxic elements, including nickel, cadmium, alkaline, mercury, nickel metal hydride, and lead acid. Recycling claims these non-renewables back and keep them from contaminating the land and ground water.
Why you should care:
As batteries break down while in landfill, the heavy metals can leach out, causing soil and water pollution and endangering wildlife, as a large percentage of landfill sites are unlined. Pollution can also bio-accumulate in fish, which reduces their numbers and makes them unfit for human consumption. Lithium batteries can also explode or catch fire in the landfill!
When it comes down to it, we are cashing in the health and wellbeing of the planet for some very short-term electronic fun. We need to do better; especially when doing better is easy and more cost effective. We can totally do this with some small changes!
What you can do:
Reduce battery usage. OK I know that is unlikely to happen. We have become so addicted and even dependant on our battery operated devices. Opt for devices which plug into mains power if you get the option.
Use rechargeable batteries. They can be used up to 1000 times! This is the most practical way of combatting the issue and can save you a small fortune on batteries. This is the way my family will be going moving forwards.
If you're still using single use batteries, select a container to collect all your used batteries like I did; and ensure they get recycled recycled to keep them out of landfill. Let's get that 3% higher.
Unfortunately in Australia recycling services vary from council to council; there is no standardised recycling do's and don'ts. Check your local council website to see if they offer battery recycling services. You can also use the Planet Ark search function to find a location which recycles batteries near you.
Aldi Supermarkets offer a free in-store collection point of batteries. The batteries are sorted into chemical types and returned to recycling plants who extract relevant materials for re-use.
IKEA offers a free recycling service for batteries as well as light bulbs, low energy light bulbs (e.g. compact fluorescent), drinks containers, cardboard and paper packing. Find their recycling bins, located in the main entrance of the store.
Battery World recycle batteries as well as mobile phones and EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). Some costs may be incurred for commercial deposits.
CMA Ecocycle helps you to set up a battery recycling program at your work by supplying a bucket and arranging collection.
Now please excuse me, I am off to Aldi to drop off 87 batteries and purchase a battery re-charging kit.