Battery recycling explained: what happens to old batteries?

recycling batteries

The battery is a genius invention. It allows you to transport and store energy wherever and whenever you wish. But that energy is finite: at some point your battery runs empty. What happens when you throw them away? How are batteries recycled? Read on to find out more about battery recycling!

How the different battery types are recycled

So what happens when you dispose of batteries? How does battery recycling take place? Firstly, batteries are collected and sorted thoroughly. Afterwards, batteries go through a series of processes to separate the raw materials. Depending on the type, an old battery will go through one or more of the following processes:

  • Chemical separation uses a basic (and/or acid) solution to dismantle the different materials from the batteries.
  • Mechanical separation uses brute force to shred the batteries - making het easier to separate the different materials.
  • Smelting: using extremely high temperatures, the metals inside the batteries melt at different temperatures.

battery recycling

Better battery contents

Batteries hold their power through certain chemicals and materials. Some of those chemicals may damage the environment if they’re disposed of wrongly. In order to battle this, Panasonic has banned several hazardous chemicals from its batteries over the years. Take lead, cadmium and mercury for example. These materials could pose a significant threat to the environment. But thanks to continuous improvement of battery technology, they’re no longer required.

Why you can help improve battery recycling

Up to 90% of the materials in batteries can be recycled, depending on the method. That’s why we encourage recycling as much as possible. This is backed by the EU’s recycling regulations in 2012. In 2015, 41% of all batteries were recycled, compared to 25% in 2010 - a positive trend. In 2017, 61% of all batteries were recycled in Belgium. The more batteries are recycled, the less resources are wasted and the less materials end up in the environment. You can find a brief overview of Europe’s battery recycling communities here.