Cordless appliances are handy and popular, but they’re powered by lithium-ion batteries, which are hard to recycle. Are we storing up the next environmental disaster?
Do you have a box of old gadgets in the loft? A drawer where you keep mobile phones you no longer use? These all contain lithium-ion batteries
Lithium-ion batteries are widespread, and increasingly so. They power cordless appliances which are are handy and popular. They’re with us throughout the day; from brushing your teeth in the morning to setting the alarm on your mobile phone at night.
In fact, there are on average, 11 Li-ion devices in every household of Which? members who responded to our survey – that’s the equivalent of 295m in the UK.
According to our latest research, these devices are also widely kept by their owners after they’ve been replaced – nearly half (48%) keep hold of them, which prevents them from being used or recycled.
What are the issues?
Though cordless devices are convenient and easy to use, we’ve found that they’re not necessarily better than their corded cousins, and have a significant environmental impact. That goes for both their manufacturing and their ability to be recycled.
The UK is the second-biggest market in Europe for Li-ion batteries after Germany, but lacks the raw materials to manufacture them, and the facilities to recycle them.
It’s common for these type of batteries to actually be sealed into appliances, which means that if the battery fails, that’s your lot – the entire thing is useless.
What to do with your old devices
So what should you do with your old Li-ion batteries to help prevent the impact? Firstly, don’t put them in the bin!
Consider giving them to friends or family, or using online services such as Freecycle to to swap them. You could also donate them to charity.
Re-using or recycling them helps build a more circular economy and reduces our reliance on raw materials.
Fortunately, we are starting to recycle Li-ion devices. In 2017, the government set up the ‘Farafay Battery Challenge‘ – £246m to develop new tech to increase recyclability and re-use.
How many lithium-ion batteries do you think you own? Are you hoarding any in devices that you don’t use any more? And what are your tips for recycling them?