How to identify and handle hidden lithium-ion batteries
Lithium-ion batteries are notoriously challenging for retailers to handle, especially at the End of Life (EOL). Adding to the frustration, many consumer products now have "hidden" lithium-ion batteries that are small, hard to find, or impossible to remove. A retail associate may not even know the lithium-ion battery is there and know to dispose of the product properly.
This problem has recently accelerated as more lithium-ion batteries and products containing them are being sold now than at any time. That means there are also more broken, outdated, or otherwise unwanted products that contain lithium-ion batteries entering the waste stream every day. When improperly disposed of, these batteries pose safety and compliance risks. For example, every year thousands of fires are started from defective or improperly disposed batteries.
Retailers need to understand how to handle and dispose of products that contain lithium-ion batteries in a safe, compliant, and sustainable way. At a high-level, lithium-ion batteries should generally be handled as Universal Waste. While the rules for Universal Waste are less stringent compared to other regulated waste streams, it is important to understand that these items should NOT be treated like regular garbage.
Smarter Sorting recently teamed up with the Retail Industry Leaders Association to coauthor a blog post educating readers on this very problem. The blog post shares examples of product categories where lithium-ion batteries may be hidden or unexpected that retailers should be aware of so they can be handled appropriately.