Batteries are used to generate power for portable devices such as calculators, watches, remote controls, flashlights, electronic instruments, etc. These make the operation of these devices possible, thanks to the fact that chemical energy is converted into electrical energy, thus maintaining a constant potential difference and generating a small voltage. However, when the useful life of a battery ends, it becomes waste that, if not properly managed and disposed of in household garbage, becomes a threat to the environment since the metals that compose it are highly toxic.
If you want to know how long batteries take to decompose or what to do with used batteries so that they do not pollute, be sure to read this interesting AgroCorrn article where it will be explained in detail from how long a battery takes to degrade to its impact on the environment , how it is recycled and what is done with recycled batteries.
How long does it take for a battery to degrade?
It is estimated that the degradation time of a battery is between 500 and 1000 years , once these begin to decompose, the protective layer that covers all the heavy metals that make up the batteries is first degraded, and later these metals are released being very toxic and dangerous for the environment and all types of life that are part of it.
Some of the metals that can be found in the composition of batteries are lead, chromium, mercury, zinc, arsenic, cadmium, among others. The most polluting metal is mercury .
Impact of batteries on the environment
The degradation of batteries in household waste, or in natural environments, has as a consequence great impacts on the environment :
- A single button cell, that is, that small battery that is usually used for the operation of objects such as a watch, is among the most harmful and polluting batteries for the environment. It is estimated that a single one can contaminate all the water that makes up the volume of an Olympic swimming pool.
- The batteries that end up in landfills or natural environments slowly decompose until the protective layer that surrounds all the heavy metals that compose it is destroyed . These are released and distributed throughout the natural environment through the water cycle, thus contaminating all bodies of water such as seas, rivers and aquifers and also soils.
- If the batteries are incinerated they will be much more toxic, since cadmium and mercury, among other metals, when they go into combustion they become large greenhouse gases generated.
- They also have a detrimental effect on life, since these metals end up entering the food chain, since the bodies of water and the soil are contaminated, so all those foods that grow in crops can be contaminated later having consequences on the health affecting the lungs, kidneys, and can cause loss of vision and deafness. In addition, metals can accumulate in the placenta of pregnant women, having harmful effects on the brain of newborns.
We recommend you read this other post about What is the environmental impact .
Why is it important to recycle batteries
There are many types and varieties of batteries that can be found, but they all have in common that a large part of the materials that compose them are heavy metals . These metals are toxic to any kind of life and to the environment.
This is why a good management and recycling of them will prevent environmental deterioration , as well as stop being a danger to living beings.
How to recycle batteries
Once the useful life of a battery has ended, it cannot be disposed of in household garbage , but must be deposited in a specific container for batteries or taken to a clean point and, later, they will be managed according to their type and recycled . Clean points can be found both in towns and cities and specific containers are very common in some businesses such as pharmacies, supermarkets, etc.
We encourage you to read this other post on What to do with used batteries so that they do not pollute .
What to do with recycled batteries
To avoid contamination of batteries , they must be recycled. Once the batteries arrive at the recycling plant, there are different processes to do so, but in general all of them are based on the separation of metals and the rest of the materials that make up the batteries. In this way, they end up obtaining pure metals that can be used for the manufacture of new batteries.
For example, in the recycling of an alkaline battery , which is one of the most used, the following are separated:
- The protective label and steel tube: which is recycled as steel scrap to obtain new steel.
- Zinc and manganese dioxide: they are recycled together to obtain new raw material for the metallurgical industry.
- Closing piece and collection: it is recycled as steel scrap to obtain new steel.
We recommend that you read this other article on How batteries are recycled and watch this video on the topic of battery recycling.
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