Battery Types

Portable batteries are defined within the EU as sealed batteries with an upper weight limit of 3 to 4 kg (depending on the country). They are able to be carried by hand without difficulty and are not intended solely for industrial or automotive use. Typically they are used to power common household and consumer electrical devices such as torches, radios, clocks, watches, mobile phones, laptops, power tools and toothbrushes.

Portable batteries can be divided into two basic categories:

primary i.e. disposable (e.g. alkaline, zinc-carbon, lithium, mercury oxide, silver oxide, zinc-air)
secondary i.e. rechargeable (eg. Li-ion, NIMH, NiCD, lead-acid).
Below is further information about these portable battery types and why they should be recycled.

Why recycle portable batteries?

The main components of portable batteries are metals. Some of these – in particular mercury, cadmium and lead – are toxic heavy metals which are hazardous to the environment. Mercury can be found in mercury oxide batteries, cadmium in NiCd rechargeable batteries and lead (plus corrosive sulphuric acid) in lead-acid batteries.

If these batteries are disposed of in landfill sites, the heavy metals can leach into the surrounding soil and groundwater, contaminating the land and waterways and threatening the health of wildlife and humans. Recycling waste batteries ensures these hazardous materials do not enter into and pollute our environment.

The metals contained in portable batteries can also be valuable, such as zinc, lithium, potassium, silver, nickel, chromium and manganese. These elements are non-renewable (finite) resources and their extraction from the earth through mining causes environmental damage. Battery recycling allows the recovery of these metals, so they can be reused in manufacturing new batteries and metal products.

This sustainable reuse is more energy efficient than using raw materials and reduces environmental harm. Recycling batteries also enables other battery materials such as plastic, paper and carbon to be recovered and reused.

Alkaline

Type: primary dry cell
Sizes: small buttons, AAA, AA, C, D, 9-volt
Typical uses: remote controls, clocks, torches
Key metal components: zinc, manganese, potassium, steel, brass

 

Zinc-carbon

Type: primary dry cell
Sizes: small buttons, AAA, AA, C, D, 9-volt
Typical uses: remote controls, clocks, torches
Key metal components: zinc, manganese

 

Lithium primary

Type: primary dry cell
Sizes: button cells to 9-volt
Typical uses: cameras, radios, toys
Key metal components: lithium, manganese

 

Mercury oxide

Type: primary dry cell
Sizes: button cells to small cylinders
Typical uses: cameras, medical devices
Key metal components: mercury

 

Zinc air

Type: primary dry cell
Sizes: button cells
Typical uses: hearing aids, watches
Key metal components: zinc

 

Silver oxide

Type: primary dry cell
Sizes: button cells
Typical uses: hearing aids, watches
Key metal components: silver

 

Lithium-ion (Li-ion)

Type: secondary dry cell
Sizes: range of custom sizes
Typical uses: mobile phones, cameras, laptops, electric toothbrushes, power tools
Key metal components: lithium, steel, copper, aluminium

 

Nickel metal hydride (NiMH)

Type: secondary dry cell
Sizes: AAA to 12-volt plus custom sizes
Typical uses: mobile phones, laptops, Bluetooth devices
Key metal components: nickel, potassium, cobalt, manganese, titanium

 

Nickel-cadmium (NiCd)

Type: secondary dry cell
Sizes: AAA to plastic-wrapped multi-cell packs
Typical uses: handheld games, remote-controlled vehicles, power tools
Key metal components: nickel, cadmium, iron, chromium, manganese, zinc

 

Lead-acid

Type: secondary sealed wet cell/gel
Sizes: medium custom sizes
Typical uses: alarm systems, maritime devices, cordless vacuum cleaners
Key metal components: lead