A common question is around how batteries are recycled.
There are a number of recycling processes that aim at recovering a variety of materials.
Lead can be recovered by separating the different materials that make up the battery or they can be processed as a whole through a furnace with the metals recovered at the end of the process.
Likewise nickel-cadmium batteries can be processed through a similar thermal technique which recovers iron-nickel and cadmium (cadmium is now restricted under the battery regulations although exemptions do apply).
Button cells containing mercury are often processed using a vacuum-thermal treatment in which the mercury vaporises and eventually solidifies when temperatures are reduced.
Ni-MH processes separate individual materials such as nickel, hydrogen and plastic with a chamber to prevent the release of hydrogen. The result is a product with high nickel content that can be used in stainless steel.
Li-Ion batteries are reprocessed using heat treatment with the main recovery being the metal content.
There are new regulations about the way batteries and accumulators are collected, treated and recycled in the UK.
Currently too many batteries are sent to landfill with, for example, the UK only recycling between 3% and 5% of portable batteries (other countries recycle up to 40% of batteries).
The regulations aim to increase this to 25% (around 7500 tonnes) by 2012, rising to at least 45% in 2016.
Large producers who place more than 1 tonne of portable batteries / accumulators on the UK market must join a Battery Compliance Scheme to pay for the collection, treatment and recycling of waste batteries.
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