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What can you do with your spent AA and AAA alkaline batteries?

Auth Anushka Agarwal | May 21,2020
247 Views

So, you bought a pair of AA or AAA alkaline batteries and when they are dead, you have no other task for them.

Well, did you know that the overwhelming majority of AA and AAA alkaline batteries available for the consumers are constructed of manganese and zinc electrodes contained in a steel outer material?

The electrons flow from the negative terminal, the anode, to the positive terminal, the cathode. This movement of electrons creates a charge that we use to power our devices. The electrolyte material or the juice in the battery is made out of potassium hydroxide that allows the reaction to continue without building up charge on one end.

So, what happens when the juice of these batteries run out?

These batteries die when one electrode loses ions and becomes so depleted in its concentration that the reaction cannot continue any longer.

So, what you’re left with a dead battery. But, what do you do with it?

First and foremost, you cannot recharge AA or AAA alkaline Smartcell batteries. Alkaline batteries are not designed to be recharged again and so you should not try such a prospect since it can be dangerous.

 If you don’t have any knowledge and the technical know-how of the product, refrain from doing anything detrimental.

One of the major questions that arise is why can be recharged a AA or AAA rechargeable batteries but we cannot do the same for an alkaline battery?

It is so because, it has been tightly sealed during the production, so, the gases formed inside the recharging process cannot normally escape fast enough and this can cause a cell to rupture or leak. So, the general rule is to not recharge alkaline batteries and do not try any such thing.

What are the legal requirements for disposing of non-rechargeable batteries?

The easiest thing that people mostly follow is to dispose it off in their domestic waste. However, in the United States, mercury is not used in constructing batteries since 1996, it is still not the right way to dispose of your batteries. Some states completely forbid people from throwing out batteries without proper disposal procedures, rendering it illegal.

Most of these batteries end up in landfill sites, where the waste doesn’t get biodegraded so easily, these batteries can contaminate the ground and seep down lower into the water table. Therefore, rather than throwing your batteries unannounced and in a careless manner, it is better if you can recycle them.

Why should you recycle batteries?

Recycling batteries is the right thing keeping in mind the economic and environmental reasons. Since all these batteries contain metals, in some cases, the most expensive metals such as the indium hydroxide replacing mercury in the alkaline batteries can be recovered and employed or other uses as well. Even if the battery doesn’t contain any important or expensive metal, it is a colossal waste of resources to permanently dispose of dead batteries.

Many companies are focusing their team on finding a way to recycle these metals and aid in the proper and safe degradation of such batteries. Recycling is an economical and prudent option and big brands have already started producing alkaline materials containing some recycled material.

As far as environmental safety is concerned, batteries almost always contain some type of corrosive material or heavy metal that can escape the battery, leach into the soil and pollute the area around the landfill site or groundwater as well.

Although alkaline batteries no longer contain mercury, they do acquire potassium hydroxide electrolyte that is not as benign as the potassium found in natural fruits and vegetables. It is a mixture of a strong and highly caustic base that can cause irritation and burn your skin too if it comes in contact. Moreover, it is not the chemical you want in our environment.

How to recycle non-rechargeable batteries?

If you believe that recycling can make your batteries harmless, keep in mind that you cannot simply dump your batteries in the same recycling bin as paper, glass, and plastic. Furthermore, most of the recycling facilities are not equipped to recycle objects like electronics and light bulbs. However, some private programs collect such batteries for recycling.

Once your battery has died, you have to cover it positive ends with a piece of tape to insulate it and then place the battery in a plastic bag or container that is designed for recycling. It is always better to label them as corrosive and harmful batteries so that other people handling such waste can take proper care of it.

Furthermore, if you encounter a battery with a while foamy crust around the rim, do not touch the battery with your bare hands and place the battery in a separate plastic bag or container.

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