Dry batteries and lithium primary batteries (common in combustibles)
How to dispose of batteries
Keep the following points in mind when disposing of dry batteries or lithium primary batteries.
Dry batteries and lithium primary batteries are categorized differently by different local governments for the purpose of disposal—recyclable waste, noncombustible waste, or harmful or hazardous waste, for example—and because of this, the method of disposal is also different. Follow the regulations of the city or town when disposing of these batteries.
The state of recycling
The amount of used dry batteries, including used lithium primary batteries, in 2009 is estimated to be about 49,000 tons*, and most of this amount will be collected, processed and thrown out with the regular waste by the local municipality. When the municipality separates batteries from the rest of the waste, the majority will be processed and recycled by companies like Nomura Kohsan Co., Ltd. and Toho Zinc Co., Ltd. The remainder that was not separated will be safely disposed of primarily as noncombustible waste by the municipality.
Currently, the used dry batteries sold in Japan do not have a large impact on the environment. Because of concern over the environmental impact of mercury, zinc-carbon and alkaline manganese have not been used in batteries since 1991 and 1992 respectively. In recent years, major countries around the world have been researching methods of battery disposal that make use of the materials in dry batteries for a more effective use of resources; however, they have yet to establish an optimum method of disposal in terms of comprehensive viewpoints, including environmental impact, effective use of resources, amount of energy consumed, and cost. Thus, the Battery Association of Japan (BAJ) continues to gather and study information on new disposal technology and to promote zero-mercury dry battery production globally through the overseas factories of Japanese battery manufacturers.
*According to a survey by the BAJ. Does not include imports of non-members.
Position on battery recycling
- When recycling is (1) good for the environment, (2) can contribute to the effective reuse of resources, and (3) is cost effective, it should be supported.
- Before carrying out recycling, it is necessary to implement an assessment of these points (pre-evaluation) and make them known publicly.
- The BAJ believes that with the current level of technology, the collection and recycling of all dry batteries that do not contain mercury is not appropriate.
This viewpoint basically conforms to the official position of the Japan, Europe, and United States trilateral work group of battery experts.
Official position of the Japan, Europe, and United States trilateral work group of battery experts on the handling of used dry batteries
The trilateral work group advocates the healthy environmental management of used primary batteries and supports the following principles.
- Alkaline manganese and zinc-carbon batteries do not represent a major threat to the environment when used and disposed of properly and can be safely disposed of with regular waste.
- The use of mercury in the standard cylindrical alkaline manganese and zinc-carbon batteries should be banned globally.
- Mandating the collection and recycling of home-use batteries is not necessary from the viewpoint of removing hazardous waste from the waste disposal process. However, in order to preserve natural resources, the trilateral work group supports the voluntary collection of batteries when recycling is good for the environment, can be safely implemented, and contains at least a cost advantage.
- Sometimes, the adverse effects to the environment outweigh the environmental benefits of collecting and recycling home-use batteries. Collection programs should be implemented primarily by the local municipalities, and should be performed only when an assessment shows that the impact on the environment can be held to a minimum.
- Deciding to collect and recycle home-use batteries should be the result of a cautious examination of the environmental benefits and impacts (such as the increased consumption of energy), costs, and the existence of appropriate recycle methods.
- The battery industry should continue its cooperation with the government and other public organizations to implement the best possible means of managing used home-use batteries.