Why recycle batteries?
Reuse valuable minerals
By recycling, valuable minerals can be recovered that can otherwise act as pollutants. These include mercury (from button cell batteries), zinc, manganese dioxide and silver (from single-use batteries), lead, sulfuric acid, & plastic (from car batteries), and nickel-cadmium, cadmium, nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion (from rechargeable batteries). Lead acid batteries are 96% recyclable, and cadmium can be returned to battery manufacturers to create a fully closed loop recycling system.
Keep toxics out of the soil and water
Most batteries contain toxic but valuable metals (such as those listed above), that can, when sent to landfill, harm the environment by contaminating soil and groundwater.
Where & how can I recycle batteries?
There are many free and easy options below, but batteries cannot be recycled in your household recycling bin, as they have to be separated very carefully and are not suited to the common collection systems and sorting facilities used by councils.
AA, AAA, C, D & 9V batteries
Aldi supermarkets offer a free battery recycling service at all their Australian stores. Both rechargeable and non-rechargeable battery types are accepted, from any brand - simply drop your used batteries into the dedicated bins in store.
Some councils collect small, household batteries for recycling using commercial collection boxes. This provides local options for residents but it comes at considerable cost to the councils.
In Victoria, the BatteryBack program recycles old and unwanted single-use and rechargeable batteries at participating retail stores.
Mobile Phone batteries
Recycle mobile phone batteries and mobiles through MobileMuster.
Car batteries can be recycled through the extensive Century Yuasa network.
Battery World will accept and recycle household quantities of batteries within stores. There are also commercial operators that offer national collection services for the recycling of all types of batteries (except motor vehicle batteries). Flat-packed boxes are posted out to your location and full boxes sent back for recycling with an administration fee. Phone 1300 733 712 if you need help with this.
Visit BusinessRecycling.com.au and search under the category "Electrical equipment," then select the type of battery you want to recycle.
What happens when batteries are recycled?
After batteries are collected, they are sorted into their types and components and sent to licensed recycling facilities in Australia or overseas for processing. Recycling battery components is a complex and expensive process due to the chemistry involved.
When lead acid batteries are recycled, the lead plates are restored back to new battery standards, the sulfuric acid is converted to sodium sulfate and used in laundry detergent and fertiliser, and the plastic casing is broken down into pellets and made into new battery containers, bins, and plant pots.
The nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion components in rechargeable batteries can also be recycled. The recovered metals are made into other products, while the cadmium can be returned to battery manufacturers to create a fully closed loop recycling system.
The Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) promotes the collection, recycling and safe disposal of the full range of batteries. For more information visit BatteryRecycling.org.au.