When Batteries Die, Do They Go to Heaven?

newaltaOne of the most common questions received by Call2Recycle’s bustling customer service team pertains to where the batteries go once a full box leaves a collection site.

With Call2Recycle®, batteries never die.  There is no battery heaven per se, but inside Canada, used batteries are transported to one of three sorting facilities.  Anything from Eastern Canada (except Quebec) goes directly to Newalta in Fort Erie, Ontario.  Newalta is a sizable Canadian corporation with 85 product recovery sites across the North American continent.  On a daily basis, some 2,000 personnel receive anything from crude oil to hydraulic fluid to antifreeze and, of course, batteries.

Newalta processes approximately half a million kilograms of batteries from Call2Recycle every year.  Once the batteries arrive at Newalta, staff there begin sorting them by chemistry e.g. Lithium Ion into one area, Nickel Zinc into another.  Details are recorded such as the weight and battery types received, and then updated in an IT system so that Call2Recycle can track that information.

Once all the batteries are sorted then each chemistry type is forwarded to a different processor organisation to reclaim the chemicals and metals.  For example, cobalt is reclaimed from Lithium Ion batteries by Glencore Xstrata in Sudbury, Ontario.  Lead is recovered from Small Sealed Lead Acid (SSLA/Pb) batteries by Newalta’s sister facility in Ville Ste-Catherine, Quebec.  These reclaimed materials are then re-used to make a variety of items.

Newalta website shotCobalt is actually a hard, lustrous, grey metal that – in ancient civilizations – was used as a blue pigment for jewelry, paint, glass and other things.  This is why even today “cobalt” is associated with the colour blue.  Reclaimed cobalt often goes into the manufacture of new, Lithium-based batteries.  Another reclaimed material is cadmium, which is also a metal but much softer than cobalt.  Unlike most other metals, cadmium is extremely resistant to the elements, so is often used as an anti-corrosive coating on other metals.  Reclaimed cadmium is used as a stiffener in construction materials such as cement, but can also be used to make new Nickel Cadmium batteries.  Nickel is also one of the key materials reclaimed by processors.  It’s a very versatile metal that can be combined with others to make steel, alloys, or super-alloys.  Reclaimed nickel finds its way into a myriad of different stainless steel products.

As such, since 1997 Newalta has been and continues to be an integral partner in Call2Recycle’s operations, providing a local sorting facility that is the closest thing to ‘battery heaven’ in Canada.

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