Properly recycling our used batteries is key to preventing toxic waste from polluting the environment. With that said, recycling rates in Australia are quite discouraging, with about 97 percent of alkaline batteries ending up in landfills. A company called Envirostream wants to change that by collecting used batteries and turning them into plant feed.
“Globally, the disposal of alkaline batteries has become a major problem,” said Adrian Griffin, managing director of Lithium Australia, Envirostream’s parent company. “Our plan for repurposing the active components of the spent cells is not only a significant step towards worldwide environmental management of the issue but could also have a powerful influence on the sustainability of disposable batteries.”
A new recycling method
While batteries contain toxic chemicals, they also contain micro-nutrients. Envirostream’s recycling method is able to separate these nutrients from the toxic stuff and turn them into fertilizer for crops. Among the micro-nutrients found in alkaline batteries is zinc, which helps plants make a chemical compound called chlorophyll and aid their photosynthetic process.
How do they turn batteries into food for plants?
The circular economy technique involves first crushing the batteries and then filtering and purifying them to remove toxic elements like mercury and nickel. Rigorous tests then make sure the fertilizer is not contaminated with any toxic elements. After removal, these are sent to a special hazardous waste treatment plant where they’re safely disposed of.
So far, the company’s fertilizer from recycled batteries has been used to successfully grow crops like tomatoes, cotton, and avocados.