Loss of valuable resources

Batteries are mostly comprised of metals & plastic. Some of these such as cobalt are mined in conditions which most Australia would find unacceptable . The least we can do is recognize the value of their sacrifice by protecting the resources themselves. Disposal to landfill means these resources are locked up from further use. In a circular economy, we would see valuable resources used again, capturing metals & reducing the need for extraction of raw materials.

Almost all batteries can be recycled to recover metals and other valuable components as shown in the table below.

Processing of Battery Type Contents (may vary depending on application/battery type)
Lithium-ion Phosphate, cobalt (heavy metal), lithium, carbon, Silicon, graphite, manganese, tin, iron, copper, nickel, plastic
Lithium metal / Lithium Primary Lithium perchlorate (possible), organic solvents
Nickel-metal hydride Nickel (heavy metal), potassium hydroxide, Zinc, Aluminium, Cobalt, Manganese, Misch Metal (rare earth)
Nickel Cadmium Nickel oxide hydroxide, cadmium (toxic heavy metal)
Some button cell batteries Lithium ion, Mercury, alkaline, silver oxide, manganese, silver
Alkaline batteries Zinc, manganese, potassium hydroxide, casing materials, separator materials, plastic, plastic, aluminium, mercury (in older batteries)
Lead acid Lead, carbon black, barium sulphate, separates (wood, glass, plastic, rubber, glass, cellulose or PVC)

The value of materials recovered from batteries varies. Resource recovery is particularly important for some of the scarcer materials, but in general there is no doubt that the majority have real value that is lost for the foreseeable future once it enters the landfill.

Recent studies by the Battery University found that the viability of recycling is dependent on battery type.

This table provides an indication of this variation and highlights the inhibitors for market forces to responsibly manage the lower value batteries such as lithium ion and nickel cadmium.

Battery Chemistry Recycling
Lithium cobalt oxide Subsidy needed
Cobalt Subsidy needed
Lithium iron phosphate Subsidy needed
Lead acid Profitable
Nickel Subsidy needed
Cadmium Subsidy needed