Battery Equivalents and Replacements

How to Dispose of Lithium Batteries?

The disposal of lithium batteries requires careful consideration due to their chemical composition and potential environmental impact.

Lithium batteries are widely used in a variety of devices, from small electronics like watches and key fobs to larger applications such as laptops, smartphones, and electric vehicles. Despite their widespread use, lithium batteries can pose hazards if not disposed of properly.

Published: March 25, 2024.

li ion smartphone battery

Understanding the Risks

Lithium batteries, when damaged or improperly handled, can leak harmful chemicals or even cause fires. This risk underscores the importance of disposing of them in a way that does not harm the environment or pose a risk to waste management workers.

The reactive nature of lithium makes these batteries particularly hazardous in landfills, where damaged cells can ignite or explode, causing fires that are difficult to extinguish.

Recycling is Key

The most responsible way to dispose of lithium batteries is through recycling.

Recycling not only mitigates the environmental risks associated with landfill disposal but also allows for the recovery of valuable metals and materials that can be used to manufacture new products.

  • Identify Local Recycling Programs: Many countries and municipalities have specific programs for recycling batteries. Retailers that sell electronics often provide battery recycling services. Look for battery recycling bins or contact your local waste management authority to find out about battery recycling options in your area.
  • Use Dedicated Battery Recycling Services: Companies like Call2Recycle offer dedicated recycling services for batteries and electronics. These services often provide drop-off locations at retailers or offer mail-in recycling options.
  • Prepare Batteries for Recycling: To ensure safety, it’s important to prepare lithium batteries for recycling by taping over the terminals or placing each battery in a separate plastic bag. This prevents the terminals from coming into contact with metal objects or other batteries, reducing the risk of short circuits.
  • Attend Recycling Events: Some communities host electronic waste recycling events where you can bring lithium batteries along with other electronic waste for safe disposal.

Disposal of Damaged or Swollen Batteries

Damaged or swollen lithium batteries require special handling due to the increased risk of chemical leaks or explosions. Do not attempt to dispose of these batteries in regular trash or recycling bins.

Instead, contact your local hazardous waste disposal facility for guidance on how to dispose of or recycle these batteries safely.

Disposal of Cordless Tool Lithium Batteries

Lithium batteries are common in many cordless tools, containing hazardous materials that can be harmful if not properly managed at the end of their lifecycle.

Recognizing this, some manufacturers of cordless tools have taken proactive steps to ensure the safe recycling of their products' lithium batteries. This initiative not only helps in reducing environmental pollution but also encourages sustainable practices within the industry.

power tool battery

Manufacturers often partner with recycling programs or organizations specializing in the safe processing of lithium batteries. These programs are designed to reclaim valuable materials from the batteries, such as lithium and cobalt, which can be reused in the manufacturing of new batteries or other products.

This process significantly reduces the need for raw materials, contributing to conservation efforts and the reduction of mining activities that can harm the environment.

Companies with Recycling Programs

Several leading cordless tool manufacturers have established recycling initiatives for their lithium batteries, for example:

  • DeWalt: DeWalt is part of the Call2Recycle program, a free battery recycling program. Customers can bring their spent batteries to participating locations, including many retailers and dealers that sell DeWalt products, where they will be collected and sent for recycling.
  • Bosch: Bosch offers a take-back service for batteries and tools. They encourage customers to drop off their used lithium batteries at designated collection points, ensuring that these components are recycled in an environmentally friendly manner.
  • Makita: Makita has a recycling program in place for their batteries. The company urges customers to return their used batteries to service centers or retailers, where they are then collected for recycling.
  • Milwaukee: Through its partnership with Call2Recycle and other initiatives, Milwaukee provides its customers with options to recycle their used batteries. This effort aligns with their commitment to sustainability and responsible disposal of electronic waste.

Of course, there may be other companies as well.

How to Participate in the Recycling Program

Participating in these recycling programs is straightforward:

  • Identify a Drop-off Location: Many cordless tool retailers, service centers, and specific recycling centers serve as collection points for used lithium batteries. Manufacturers often provide a locator tool on their websites to help you find the nearest drop-off point.
  • Prepare the Batteries: It’s generally advised to place a piece of non-conductive tape over the battery terminals to prevent any short-circuiting during transport.
  • Drop Off the Batteries: Bring your used lithium batteries to the chosen collection point. The process is usually free, with the recycling and disposal costs covered by the manufacturer or the recycling program.
  • Confirmation of Recycling: While you won’t typically receive a confirmation for individual batteries, you can be assured that participating locations follow through with sending batteries to proper recycling facilities.

Always check with the manufacturer or their website for the most current information on recycling programs as these initiatives continue to evolve and expand.

button cell battery

How to Identify What Products and Devices Have Lithium Batteries in Them?

Identifying products and devices that contain lithium batteries is crucial for ensuring proper use, storage, and disposal of these items. Lithium batteries are common in the modern world, powering everything from small electronics to large automotive vehicles.

They are favored for their high energy density, lightweight, and rechargeability, but they also require careful handling due to their reactive nature. Here's how to identify products and devices that typically house lithium batteries:

Portable Electronics

  • Smartphones and Tablets: Virtually all modern smartphones and tablets use lithium-ion batteries due to their ability to store significant amounts of power in a small, lightweight package.
  • Laptops and Portable Computers: These devices rely on lithium-ion batteries for extended off-grid use. The battery pack is usually a significant part of the device's bottom section or can sometimes be externally attached.

Wearable Tech

  • Smartwatches and Fitness Trackers: The compact size of lithium batteries makes them ideal for powering small, wearable devices that require a long battery life.

Cordless Tools

  • Power Tools: Lithium batteries have revolutionized the cordless tool industry, providing more power and longer life for drills, saws, and other hand tools.

Home Electronics

  • Cameras: Digital cameras, including DSLRs, action cameras, and video cameras, use lithium batteries for their ability to last longer between charges.
  • Remote Controls: Some high-end or rechargeable remote controls for TVs, drones, or gaming consoles use lithium batteries for their rechargeability and longevity.

Mobility Devices

  • Electric Vehicles (EVs): EVs utilize large lithium-ion battery packs for propulsion. These are much larger and more complex than the batteries found in smaller devices.
  • E-bikes and Electric Scooters: These personal mobility devices are powered by rechargeable lithium batteries.

Recreational

  • Drones: Most drones are powered by lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries due to their high power-to-weight ratio.
  • Portable Speakers and Headphones: The rechargeability and longevity of lithium batteries make them suitable for portable audio devices.

flashlight battery

Identifying Features and Labels

  • Check the Label or User Manual: Most devices that use lithium batteries will indicate this on the product label or in the user manual. Look for terms like "Li-ion" (lithium-ion) or "LiPo" (lithium polymer).
  • Battery Compartment: Devices with removable batteries may have markings or warnings inside the battery compartment. Replaceable lithium batteries are often in the form of coin cells (used in calculators or remote controls) or cylindrical cells (like AA or AAA but labeled as lithium).
  • Regulatory Marks: Devices with built-in lithium batteries might have regulatory labels indicating the presence of lithium batteries, which are sometimes required for shipping and disposal considerations.
  • Visual Inspection: Lithium batteries themselves are often clearly marked with the battery type and chemistry.

Understanding which of your devices contain lithium batteries is essential for their safe handling. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for use, storage, and disposal to minimize risks and ensure the longevity of the product.

For disposal, many retailers and local waste management facilities offer recycling programs specifically designed for lithium batteries due to their environmental impact.

Legislation and Compliance

Be aware of the laws and regulations regarding battery disposal in your jurisdiction. Many regions have strict rules about disposing of lithium batteries, with heavy fines for non-compliance.

Ensuring adherence to these regulations not only protects the environment but also helps in promoting a culture of responsibility and sustainability.