How to dispose of old laptop batteries?

In this short report we will discuss the topic “how to dispose of old laptop batteries?” by answering some of the important questions related to its makeup, disposal methods, and its environmentally friendly nature. On a final note, we will discuss the initiatives companies have taken to reduce e-waste. 

What are laptop batteries made of? 

Batteries are the power provider of the laptops where it has the capacity to store the charge so that laptop can keep on working even when unplugged. Most of the batteries that are used in laptops fall in the following category. 

  • Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) 
  • Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) 
  • Lithium Ion (Li-ion) 
  • Smart batteries 

Nickel and lithium are naturally occurring minerals and are obtained through mining. They both are the main component of batteries, not only laptops but also for vehicles. Batteries made from different elements provide different efficiency or storage capacity to the batteries. 

Nickel cadmium batteries were the first to be used for laptops but they didn’t last because of thier inefficiency in charging the battery to the fullest. They used to suffer from what is called the memory effect. If these batteries are partially charged repeatedly then they will remember the old charge and continue to charge only partially. 

Thus, nickel cadmium batteries will lose life faster. Moreover, cadmium is a toxic element and without proper disposal it will affect the environment. Memory effects can also be seen to some extent in nickel metal hydride batteries however they are much more eco-friendly because of the absence of cadmium. 

Lithium Ion batteries are currently the standard source of battery for laptops as these are not only durable but also the components are non-hazardous to the environment. Together with the inclusion of smart battery, the lithium ion battery performance is enhanced. Smart battery is a specialized equipment that communicates between the charger, user and the device. 

It is simply a chip with internal circuit boards that allows appropriate current and voltage so that the battery can charge when they need to. Lithium ion battery is the kind that one would prefer for their laptop because it has advantages that other batteries are lacking. Some of them are: 

  • Cost effective 
  • High power density 
  • Easy maintenance 
  • Continuous voltage 
  • Variety of models available 

However, the major concern with lithium batteries is that they are very sensitive at high temperature and can become explosive or catch fire. They are a cause of problems during transportation and hence many airlines avoid intake of lithium-ion batteries. These are also the reason that they are stored in bulk or else extra precaution needs to be taken for its storage. 

How to dispose of old laptop batteries? 

Aged batteries are always a cause of concern because of the contents within it. Most of the dead batteries, if not disposed of properly, may release toxic chemicals that either leach out in soil or water causing severe pollution. Like any other toxic materials that comes into our environment, the leachate from dead laptop batteries eventually accumulates in wildlife and humans and its effect is far worse than other types of waste. 

It is very important to know that old batteries should not be thrown away in the garbage with other trash. Their disposal needs to be taken care of with properly packing the batteries in plastic bags and separately trashing it in recycling centers. Few houses or apartments are provided with separate recycling bins for batteries only. 

This way they do not get mixed up with other trash. Recycling is the best option to dispose of any old batteries even for laptops. There are many centers and companies that accept batteries. Dell has an asset care and recycling unit that accepts unused and old batteries. There is also Karmacycling in India that accepts most electronic parts for recycling.

We can also sell old or dead batteries to them. With more awareness for environment and e-waste pollution, some companies are dedicated to collecting e-wastes and they have several collection centers such as the www. Ecoreco.com It is also very important to know that the recycling centers will not accept the batteries if they are damaged. 

Batteries that are swollen, cracked or burned pose a threat of explosion as the content inside the battery comes in direct contact with air. Recycling center personnel, if unaware of the damage, are putting themselves in danger while handling it. That is the reason most recycling centers confirm if the battery is damaged or not, before taking it for processing. 

But don’t worry! There are authorized recycling centers that have skilled personnel that can take care of your damaged batteries. Due to the gas build up within the swollen battery these should be removed very carefully without puncturing it. An authorized battery disposal agency or a computer repair center will ensure safe handling and disposal. 

Here, each component of the battery is separated and each element is extracted through a different process. 

Are batteries eco-friendly? 

Batteries have provided a comfort zone for the use of many handheld devices. Its charge storing ability makes us less dependent on the grid. Unlike the computer systems, fully charged laptops can be taken to different places or can be used from anywhere. 

Even in power consumption aspects, laptops are much safer than computers, hence, they are the preferred companion for every student and tech companies. As discussed early, cadmium is toxic and cadmium-based batteries need to be recycled or disposed of properly in order to prevent its harmful effect to the environment. 

Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, contain fewer toxic metals and hence are non-hazardous. Most of the manufacturing companies now use lithium-ion batteries as a safe solution for the environment. 

Many companies have portrayed their products to be eco-friendly by changing some of the key features such as its makeup and battery efficiency. Lenovo ThinkPad L420 series is made from the post-consumer recycled contents and saves 40% of operating costs. They are efficient in managing power and include certification from ENERGY STAR. 

Giant tech companies like Apple have developed environmentally friendly MacBook Air that is mostly made up of aluminum and glass which are 100% recyclable with no downcycling. Asus Bamboo Series also have put their share of going eco-friendly by replacing plastic for its packaging and few laptop parts with bamboo.

Conclusion 

In this short report we have discussed the topic “How to dispose of old laptop batteries?”. We first introduced the key metals that are used to make laptops and how they are affecting our environment. Further, we highlighted some of the many ways batteries can be disposed of safely through recycling centers. On a broader aspect, we also discussed different ways companies are developing laptops to be more eco-friendly. 

Frequently asked question (FAQs): How to dispose of old laptop batteries? 

Can you throw away a laptop battery? 

No, old laptop batteries should never be thrown away with other materials. These need to be disposed of properly in a separate e-waste garbage bin or should be taken to recycling centers where they are disposed of properly. 

In case of batteries that are swollen, broken, or burnt, these need to be taken to a specialized recycling center where they can be handled properly without emitting hazardous chemicals. 

Does Best Buy take old laptop batteries? 

Best Buy has a recycling center for almost any kind of e-waste and conveniently dispose of old laptop batteries. Staples and Walmart also provide collection centers where they provide a hassle-free way to dispose of old laptop batteries. 

How do you dispose of lithium batteries? 

Small lithium batteries that are used in PCs, mobile phones, and digital cameras can be removed carefully from its compartment and sealed with insulating tape before being sent to e-waste collection centers. Industrial lithium batteries that are considered as industrial e-waste and needs to be disposed of through the manufacturer which differ from place to place. 

Can lithium batteries explode? 

Though it is an uncommon occurrence, lithium batteries pose a slight chance of causing fire or explosion. Exposure to high temperature or air leads to an exothermic reaction which causes its explosion. For batters that are swollen, it is better to safely dispose of them through authorized recycling centers where they are handled carefully. 

What happens to a lithium battery when it dies? 

One of the disadvantages of lithium batteries is that once fully drained, they cannot be recharged. This is where rechargeable lithium batteries have a significant role as these can be recharged for its lifetime use. 

When any battery dies, it is collected by the recycling centers where they separate each part of the battery such as lithium salts, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, and plastic which are then recycled separately. 

Can lithium batteries be 100% recycled? 

With a closed-loop system it is possible to recycle lithium 100%. This is what the giant automobile companies are claiming as they have already devised a setup to collect lithium waste and recycle it completely to be used for its next product. 

Since lithium batteries contain less toxic metals than other batteries, their demand is tremendous in the 21st century, hence, efficient recycling is a helping way to deal with lithium shortage in future. 

References 

https://www.lifewire.com/dispose-of-laptop-battery-5119295
https://www.instructables.com/Recycle-Your-Dead-Old-Laptop-Battery/
https://www.vice.com/en/article/xgxke4/when-tesla-says-it-recycles-100-of-its-batteries-what-does-that-mean

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