An Australian recycling company is turning old batteries and turning them into fertilizer for crops. Around 97 per cent of alkaline batteries in Australia are not recycled. Unlike in Europe where legislation requires shops that sell batteries to ask customers to return them once they run out of juice.
For the batteries that are recycled, most power plants use extreme heat to melt down the metals inside them to be used again. But there’s one problem, everything else is burnt off, leaving other elements, which have been mined from natural sources, unused where they could be being repurposed elsewhere.
Although some chemicals in batteries are toxic, this new method takes micro-nutrients present in alkaline batteries and turns them into vital food for crops. Zinc, which is present in many alkaline batteries, helps plants to make a chemical called chlorophyll. This is what makes plants green and without it they can’t use sunlight to turn water and CO2 into energy.
It is part of a circular economy plan that aims to minimize the exploitation of the planet’s natural resources by using them for as long as possible.
The batteries are first crushed, then filtration and purification processes remove toxic elements like mercury and nickel. It is important that these don’t end up in the fertilizer as they could make their way into the food, we eat so testing of the final product is rigorous. Once removed, they are sent on to be safely disposed of by hazardous waste treatment plants instead of leaching into the soil as they would if the batteries were sent to landfill.