Recycling Lithium-ion Batteries: What You Should Know and What You Can Do

Li-ion batteries

While lithium-ion batteries come in many shapes and sizes, the underlying technology is all the same.

With the growth of popular portable electronic devices in the past decades, rechargeable batteries have become a necessary component to everyday devices. Of the many types of rechargeable batteries, the use of lithium-ion batteries is particularly widespread as they provide more energy by weight than other types of rechargeable batteries. Common items that use lithium-ion include: cell phones, laptops, power tools, and electric vehicles.

While lithium-ion batteries have many advantages, they are not a perfect technology. Lithium-ion batteries typically last 2-3 years, and the battery starts to degrade once it is manufactured, regardless of whether or not it has been used yet. Lithium-ion batteries are also temperature sensitive, and prolonged exposure to high temperatures will shorten the battery life.

The Bad

Lithium is a highly reactive element, and in rare cases (2-3 cases per million) battery packs have been known to fail, resulting in the pack bursting into flames. All lithium-ion batteries have a flammable electrolyte and pressurized contents which requires an internal computer in the battery pack to manage the battery to prevent a hazardous outcome, should the battery encounter failing conditions. Still, lithium ion batteries have many benefits over other types of batteries, which has resulted in their widespread use.

The Good

Lithium-ion batteries hold their charge much better than older battery types, such as nickel-metal hydride batteries. This makes their application in portable electronics and electric car batteries particularly valuable. Lithium-ion batteries also lack a “memory effect” and can be recharged before the battery has been completely discharged. The contents of lithium-ion batteries are also less toxic than most other battery types, which makes them easier to recycle, and less harmful to the environment. Still, recycling a lithium ion battery prevents the contamination of up to 60,000 liters of water (the equivalent of 3 Olympic pools!).

To extend the life of your lithium-ion battery, there are a few things you can do:

  • – Avoid leaving your device in high temperatures (e.g. leaving your laptop in your car on a hot summer day).
  • – Try to keep your battery more than 50% charged and let it run down until it is under 10% about once a month, or every 30 charge cycles.
  • – Avoid using rapid chargers when possible

– Don’t let the battery completely discharge. It will require a specialized charger to re-establish the battery capacity.

This lithium ion battery has swelled from expanding gases inside. It should be taken to a proper recycling facility to ensure it is recycled safely.

GreenCitizen can recycle all rechargeable battery types for free. For single-use batteries, please check our locations page to find a nearby drop off location.

2 Comments on “Recycling Lithium-ion Batteries: What You Should Know and What You Can Do

  1. Lily de Grey

    Thanks for writing this helpful, informative article. I think it’s important that we know where and when to recycle our batteries safely. My husband and I like to lessen our environmental imprint as much as possible, so your article was a great read for us! Do you know if there are companies that pay you to recycle?

  2. James Wolff

    I fly electric radio control planes. therefore I have a few Lipo batteries. We were told to recycle them by cutting of the leads and placing the battery in a salt solution for a week, then they can be placed in the landfill.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *