Recharge and Recycle

North American Consumers Play the Important First Step in Recycling Nickel from Batteries

Manual separation of materials

Above: TRAMP MATERIALS Batteries must be manually separated from things such as plastic bags, bubble wrap, paper and cardboard.

 Collection boxesShipment to regional warehouseSorting by chemistrySorting by chemistry  

1. Facilities are available in thousands of retail outlets across the continent for consumers to voluntarily return the spent batteries for recycling. Collection boxes are available at the check-out counter of most major department, electronics and hardware stores.

2. The collection boxes are shipped to a regional warehouse. This one, in Ontario, receives collection boxes from all across Canada. Collection boxes are then trucked to Inmetco in Pennsylvania, which is the only high-temperature metals recovery plant in North America. It is the only facility that can recover the valuable nickel from rechargeable batteries.
 
3 & 4. Each type of battery varies widely in it's nickel content. Therefore, upon arrival at Inmetco, each collection box is opened and the spent batteries are sorted by chemistry (nickel metal hydride, nickel-cadmium or lithium ion, etc.).

Removal of plastic power pack cases "Pigs" "Hogs" Worker

5. After separation of the refuse (see "Tramp Materials," main photograph), the next step is to remove the plastic power pack cases from the battery cells. This is done with specialized equipment. The various types of nickel-containing batteries are then shredded (see "Shredding," 8).
Rechargeable batteries that contain cadmium must first have that metal removed using another pyrometallurgical process, before the nickel can be recovered.
 
6 & 7. At this point the extracted nickel is in a saleable form: "Hogs" (7) and "Pigs" (6). Thus nickel that is so widely used in rechargeable batteries worldwide returns to a production chain where it is used to advantage in many thousands of different nickel-containing stainless steel applications.