Recycling has become one of the most important and impactful acts in our society today. According to the University of Illinois, Americans purchase nearly 3 billion batteries each year to power their utilities. However, not all of these batteries are disposed of in the proper manner. Because of the quantity of batteries consumed in the states as well as the growing notion of recycling, recycling batteries has become an area of business that is developing quickly. It is a known fact that here at Mack Retailers, we handle technology on a massive scale. Recycling batteries could prove to be a very fruitful business venture and could also let us further our acts for sustainability. It is very important that we are as environmentally friendly as possible. My purpose is to inform you how we can provide the city of Greensboro with a recyclable battery program and how Mack Retailers can implement said program. In this memorandum I will be informing you about the different types of rechargeable batteries, the process of recycling these batteries, and companies nearby that have successfully implemented a recycling program.
Types of Batteries
Before we try to implement a recycling plan we must first understand the different types of batteries and their characteristics. To do this I will inform you of the advantages and disadvantages of each of the most common batteries used today. The following information should aid the understanding of these batteries with a brief description about each.
Nickel Cadmium Batteries
Nickel Cadmium batteries are a type of rechargeable battery with the active components NiCd. Due to the low internal resistance and exceptional conducting properties, these batteries can supply high currents of energy and recharge quickly. The battery is very durable and can sustain energy flow in temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius. The cells within the battery have a very long shelf life making them a safe battery to keep on stock. However, the in the separator of the battery there can be a case of high current voltage which induces a discharge resulting in an overcharging of the battery.
Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries
Nickel Metal Hydride batteries are a type of rechargeable battery with the active components NiMH. They are very similar to the previous batteries but differ in their active elements and discharge rates. These batteries are used in objects that require a high storage of energy and that are frequently used. Examples include digital cameras, GPS units and MP3 players. These batteries can be recharged hundreds of times and have a very flat discharge rate making them quite reliable. They also can sustain energy flow in temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius.
Lead Acid Batteries
Lead Acid batteries are the oldest type of rechargeable battery. The batteries are composed of a Lead-dioxide cathode, metallic Lead and Sulphuric acid. The heavy metal and acidic qualities make them very toxic and can result in hazardous waste of disposed of improperly. Their main use is in the automotive industry because they are tough, tolerant of abuse, and are very low cost. The shelf life of these batteries are very long if stored without an electrolyte. Due to the ubiquitous nature they are the worlds most recycled product. However, they are very heavy and bulky to store, they are not suitable for quick charging and there is a danger of overheating.
Lithium Ion Batteries
Today Lithium Ion batteries are some of the most popular batteries for multiple reasons. They are found in some of the most common products including laptops, cells phones, and iPods. They are also one of the most electronically efficient batteries on the market due to their weight to output ratio. They are much lighter than many of the alternatives and that’s why they are the choice for so many common products. These batteries also hold their charge extremely well. A typical lithium ion battery pack loses only about 5 percent of its charge per month. This is great when compared to the NiMH batteries which lose about 20 percent per month. That being said, there are some negatives to the battery. They will only last two or three years whether they are in use or not. They are very sensitive to high temperature and this will cause them to fail much faster than usual. They are more expensive because the must have an on-board computer to manage the battery’s output. Lastly, there have also been cases where the battery has failed and burst into flames. Still, they are in many ways ahead over the other batteries in terms of advantages.
Lithium Polymer Batteries
The lithium polymer battery is the usurper of the lithium ion battery. These batteries have advantages over the previous in terms of cost, function, endurance and flexibility. A lithium polymer battery can be molded to fit a plethora of different objects. This helps companies because they no longer must contour to the battery and are now freed in terms of design and layout. Some disadvantages to the battery are that they are low in energy density and they are fairly costly to make.
Rechargeable Battery Recycling Process
Call2Recycle is a recycling company that has helped convert almost 70 million pounds of deserted batteries into recycled batteries. Call2Recycle has partnered with a company called INMETCO to help with the recycling process. They have been practicing the process of battery recycling for almost 20 years and have no plans to stop. They collect batteries from retailers and companies to convert the wasted materials into 100% recycled batteries. A video on their YouTube channel explains how they operate the battery recycling process. They describe the process with the following steps:
1. Once the collected batteries have been weighed and separated by type, they are officially sent to the recycling plant.
2. Once in the plant, they are sent into a rotary hearth furnace where a chemical reduction takes place in order to prepare them for the next step.
3. They are then sent to an electric arc furnace where they are melted down to extract the metals.
a. Elemental metals are the ones that are recovered from the melted batteries.
4. The molten metals are then poured into kettles based on their composition.
5. These kettles pour the specified containments into molds to cool off.
a. Metal rebars are placed into the molds so that forklifts can easily move them.
6. The metals that are recovered include Nickel, Cobalt, Cadmium, Lead, Iron and Copper.
These recovered metals are used not only to make new batteries, but also to make stainless steel products and cement additives. Converting these diverted batteries into recycled products and keeping them out of landfills is an import step in keeping the world like we know it today.
Local Business Recycling Programs
To competently create our own recycling program, it is important to understand other organizations and companies that execute them well. As mentioned above, Call2Recycle is one of the leaders in this industry. Thousands of companies and partnerships have formed due to Call2Recycles successful efforts in pursuing battery recycling. An aspect that makes them so successful is their flexibility when it comes to collecting materials. One may either visit one of their drop-off locations or visit a private collection site. Drop-off points are easily accessible and can be found in a variety of locations. In Greensboro alone, we have 16 different locations that can be found via Call2Recycles website.
To gain a better idea of the thoughts and feeling of locals about battery recycling, I conducted a survey about recycling rechargeable batteries. My survey group was made up of 20 people from the local Greensboro area. From the survey I have chosen three of the questions that I thought would best interpret the public’s view. These responses will also help us as a company to make decisions when it come to our own recycling program. The first question I asked was “Where do you put batteries after you are done using them?” (Figure 1). As you can see from the graph only twenty percent said that they recycle batteries after they were finished using them. This clearly shows that either they don’t know about the local programs, the programs are inaccessible to them or they simply don’t know about recycling batteries. Never the less, this shows that if we are to pursue a program, we would need to find a way to market it to the masses easily to maximize returns.
The next response that I found most important was the question of “What is your opinion of recycling batteries” (Figure 2). Out of all the participants 100 percent said they found recycling batteries to be important. Another important fact to point out is that sixty percent said they found it “Extremely important”. This response shows us that the population finds recycling important giving it a call to action if they were to see an opportunity. This also shows us that if we were to implement a program that people in the community would take it seriously.
The third question that I found important was “Do you have a better perception of a company if they have a recycling program in place?” (Figure 3). The answer was a resounding “Yes”. Due to the fact that people would have a better image of us if we had a program in place only furthers that notion. This will be good for us as a company because it will attract new customers and give the current ones a reason to stay loyal. With all of this data in mind, it would be advantageous for us to start a recycling program in tandem with the company.
Creating a unique Mack Retailers battery recycling program could prove to be a very fruitful business endeavor. Implementing a program to give us a better community image could really push us above our competition. It will also help keep the earth clean and show how we practice sustainability in another good business practice. After researching this topic by looking at batteries, the recycling industry and analyzing community feedback, I have been able to create a plan for Mack Retailers to successfully implement a recycling program in the upcoming future of this company.