Saturday, September 26, 2009

Good news/bad news.

My husband is in the battery business. One of the cool things about batteries, at least those used in cars, trucks, ATV (yada yada yada) is that they are 100% recyclable. You won't find old batteries in a garbage dump, because 1) they have "core" charges (thus are worth $$) and 2) they are 100% recyclable, so no need to toss 'em. If you have a problem with assertion #2, see factoid #1.

And, then we come to those batteries in those "green" cars. Someone showed up with one of 'em at a shop, and NO one knows what the hell do do with it. Well, here's the good news:

According to the U.S. government, lithium ion batteries aren't an environmental hazard. "Lithium Ion batteries are classified by the federal government as non-hazardous waste and are safe for disposal in the normal municipal waste stream," says Kate Krebs at the National Recycling Coalition. While other types of batteries include toxic metals such as cadmium, the metals in lithium ion batteries - cobalt, copper, nickel and iron - are considered safe for landfills or incinerators (Interestingly enough, lithium ion batteries contain an ionic form of lithium but no lithium metal).

Isn't that cool? Instead of returning them to the store for your "core" charge, and the stores/warehouses having to deal with the recycling mess, we can just THROW THEM AWAY. Isn't that awesome?

But, say we WANTED to recycle 'em. You know, because we're a bunch of greenies now. Well it's not so easy.

Lithium ion batteries just don't have much in them that is economically useful. Currently, lithium carbonate is pretty cheap stuff, and it just isn't economically viable to recover it from batteries. Of course, that could easily change. As more and more batteries are produced, the world's current capacity for lithium could easily be strained.

Additionally, from an environmental perspective, it would be really bad news to have a new kind of battery that no one wants to recycle. Even if it isn't economically viable, Li-ion batteries contain all kinds of weird stuff that we don't want leaching into the ground water.

What? I thought these Green cars were our future?

Hopefully, recycling Li-ion batteries will soon be just as easy as recycling any other kind of car battery. If not, it will be harder to sell buyers on the "green" part of electric vehicles.

Oh, well. We've got HOPE.

Meanwhile, my husband's buddy's got a lithium ion battery in his store and has NO idea what to do with it. I'm guessing he's going to throw it away.