How do we recycle old laptop batteries? 

In this brief report we will discuss the topic “Recyclable old laptop batteries” and will briefly introduce the reader about the evolution of laptop batteries and how to recycle the current batteries. We will also discuss the different ways the battery life can be increased and methods to take care of the battery properly. 

What are laptop batteries made of? 

Any type of battery provides the feasibility of mobility of the equipment. With completely charged batteries you can travel with the equipment for a considerable amount of time without worrying about its functionality. Most of the current day batteries provide sufficient charge for working of any equipment for a longer period without the need to connect to the power outlet. 

However, when we look at the history of making laptop batteries, the path of invention of batteries is amazing. It all started with an AA battery that was used for laptops in the early 80s. As you all know these batteries are not quite efficient in retaining charges and add to the weight of the laptop. 

They are also quite expensive and these need to be charged frequently. Hence, these were replaced by lead-acid cells which was the first rechargeable laptop battery made. These were quite heavy and did not provide sufficient backup time. 

With more inventions and development in electronics in the 90s, lead-acid batteries were soon replaced by Nickel Cadmium Battery which were much more effective than the previous inventions and were most preferable for laptop manufacturers. However, they used to suffer from a process called memory effect. In short, the memory effect means the laptop tends to remember how much it was charged previously and with repeated incomplete charging its set limit will be fixed at its previous charging value. 

So, when the laptop is repeatedly charged till 80% only, because of memory effects, the nickel cadmium battery will not charge after it has reached 80%. Thus, every time you have to wait for the charge to drain completely before charging. Though Nickel metal hybrid batteries were made to increase the charging capacity, it also suffered from memory effect to some extent. 

Finally, a solution for memory effect was invented with the development of lithium-ion batteries through fuel cell technology. These have many of the advantages over the previous batteries in being lightweight, slimmer, and work for hours. With further improvements lithium polymer batteries were made that could safely store for a few months without losing its charge. 

There are still progression and improvements going on with the current battery models to make it more affordable and increase reusability. 

How should you take care of your laptop battery? 

Old laptop batteries are very sensitive to overheating which may cause damage to the laptop. It not only slows down the laptop but also reduces the life of the battery and makes it unusable. Most lithium-ion batteries are harmed by heat as it accelerates the charging process which reduces battery life. Like all electronic equipment that are sensitive to water, laptops are also very susceptible to water. 

Most of the batteries in the laptop are completely sealed so there is less chance for water to enter. However, if the seal is broken the water will hinder the flow of electrons and completely damage the laptop battery. Most of the laptop specialists suggest keeping the charging in limits of not less than 40% and no more than 80%. 

This gives the battery a good life by preventing them from complete draining or over charging. Though it seems to be tedious work for the travelers whose work depends on moving from place to place, it is the most obvious way for better longevity and charge capacity for your laptop. Some companies also offer charging limits that are good for that laptop which you can check with the manufacturer’s support software. 

Most of the company laptops that are for heavy programming are often charged continuously even after it reaches 100%. What happens with it is that after completely charging the power is diverted to the system which may generate heat in your laptop and the result is a damaged battery which can no longer be used. To prevent the overheating of the laptop, manufacturers have installed a cooling system in the laptop with a vent through which cool air is circulated.

Now when these vents are blocked by keeping the laptop on your lap or on the pillow, heat is trapped in the laptop thus affecting the battery life. Keeping the laptop on a hard surface will allow proper air circulation and provide a longer battery life. 

Photo Courtesy: iStock. Lithium Battery

How do we recycle old laptop batteries? 

Even though one follows all the necessary protocols to increase the battery life, at one point it becomes too worn out that you have to dispose of them. Most well-advanced batteries last for 2 to 4 years at the most and with the pandemic situation there is an increase in the usages of laptops in offices as well as academic institutions. You can imagine the number of batteries that need to be taken care of in the near future. 

Depending upon the type of batteries, its content is a cause of concern while dealing with the issue of disposal. Most aged batteries release toxic chemicals that, if not disposed properly will leach out hazardous chemicals in the soil or water bodies causing severe health issues to the wildlife and humans. The nickel or cadmium-based batteries are known to cause severe health hazards if not disposed of properly. 

Though these are no longer used and have been replaced with lithium batteries, some old batteries still have these contents and are a cause of concern. However, even the current lithium-based batteries have components that are toxic to humans. The first case of accidental lithium poisoning showed severe neurological symptoms in a child who accidentally swallowed a lithium battery. 

Hence, it is an urgent necessity to make people knowledgeable of proper recycling techniques for the old laptop batteries. The first thing to understand is that old batteries should never be thrown away in the garbage with other trash. Their disposal needs to be done properly by packing the batteries in plastic bags and separately trashing it in recycling centers. 

Similar to any other batteries, recycling is the best option to take old laptops safely. Few houses or apartments are provided with separate recycling bins to batteries only. This way they do not get mixed up with other trash. 

Recycling centers that take in electronic wastes can be best utilized for disposal of batteries. There are several programs in the communities that train you on how to properly dispose of laptop batteries. For batteries that are swollen, extra care needs to be taken so that they do not explode while being trashed. 

This can be done by properly packing them in a sealable plastic bag, labeling them and letting the handlers know that these are swollen batteries. This way they will be taken care of properly. There are several local recycling centers that responsibly take care of electronic wastes. In the US it is mostly collected by Call2Recycle whereas in India it is SAAHAS and many other NGO programs that help proper collection of electronic wastes including old laptop batteries.

Photo Courtesy: iStock. Stack of old laptops.

Conclusion 

In this brief discussion we have explained the topic “Recycling old laptop batteries” and known several methods of recycling and centers that help in recycling old laptop batteries. We have also discussed the type of materials used for making laptop batteries and how the production of batteries has evolved over time. To make readers more knowledgeable we have also written some details on how to take care of laptop batteries for its longevity. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs): Recycle old laptop batteries. 

Can you get money for old laptop batteries? 

The answer to this question mostly depends on the content of the batteries. If the old battery is still made from Nickel or cadmium components, there is a high chance that it will not be accepted by any shop. Due to their toxic effects most of the batteries are lithium based. Even then their lifespan is limited as most batteries last for 2 to 4 years. With the numerous models coming in the market, most laptop batteries are specific to the laptop model and hence there will be a compatibility issue and are not usually cheap to replace. 

How do I dispose of an old laptop battery? 

Old laptop batteries should be disposed of properly at the recycling centers so that it does not end up in landfill. There are many recycling centers that take in electronic wastes including old laptop batteries for safely recycling them. The apartments or communities have set up separate recycling for electronic waste where you can dispose of your laptop batteries. 

However, an important thing to note is that there should be extra precaution when dealing with bulged laptop batteries as these are very dangerous and need to be disposed of safely. Batteries can be placed in sealable plastic bags and labeled properly before disposing them of. 

How do you dispose of lithium-ion batteries? 

Batteries are considered hazardous material and should be disposed of at the respective collection canters. Lithium-ion batteries can be recycled at a permitted treatment facility. Hence these should never be disposed of in regular trash bins. Neither does the single use lithium batteries or a button-cell battery be placed in municipal recycling bin which are meant for plastic and paper recycling. Check with the local recycling centers to know more about the proper disposal of laptop batteries.

How do I dispose of my HP laptop battery? 

Visit the HP product site and you will see a list of available programs through which they help in collection of old laptop batteries from customers. HP has partnered with Staples that offer recycling of many electronic wates. Just go or give a call to your local Staples store and check for the days when they accept electronic wastes, especially batteries. HP has also partnered with FedEx for free shipping of old batteries by the customer at the recycling center which is also applicable for non-HP products. 

How do you fix your dead laptop batteries? 

There are many tricky ways by techies through which you can revive a dead battery. One interesting way is to refrigerate the dead battery overnight and let it thaw it at room temperature followed by charging it fully by placing it in the laptop for 6-7 times. The method has been successful for Nickel and cadmium-based batteries but does not work for dead lithium batteries. With lithium batteries the best possible way to keep it active is to keep the laptop as cool as possible. 

References 

http://sllapontamentos.blogspot.com/2011/07/history-and-origin-of-laptop-batteries.html 

https://smallbusiness.chron.com/negative-effects-overheated-laptop-48163.html
https://www.ifixit.com/News/31716/how-to-care-for-your-laptops-battery-so-it-lasts-longer
https://www.instructables.com/Recycle-Old-Laptop-Battery/

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