This weekend, to my dismay, my cell phone fell apart and rendered itself useless to me. After accepting that it was definitely shot and unfixable, I began thinking about how best to dispose of the phone carcass and battery. As for my battery, along with the rest of the country’s batteries, it will probably end up in the trash and be brought to a landfill or incinerator. Lithium ion batteries, like the one from my phone, are not considered hazardous waste by the government. Unlike many older style batteries that contain metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury that can cause disease and death if released into the environment, lithium batteries do not contain any dangerous heavy metals.
So is it ok for lithium batteries to go into landfills? Yes in the sense of environmental safety, but not in a moral or economic sense. The high concentration of cobalt, copper, and nickel in these batteries creates a huge potential for recycling. Instead of obtaining these metals from mining, already-refined metals from batteries can extracted and recycled. This would both reduce energy use and environmental impacts of mining and decrease the flow of batteries and high-tech circuitry into landfills. Unfortunately though, I have no idea how to go about disposing of my phone in a way that ensures it will be recycled. For now ill be forced to toss it in the recycling and hope that it finds its way to a facility that can recycle its valuable metals.