Rechargeable batteries are, thankfully, becoming increasingly common to the point that few devices still use ordinary single-use alkalines. Some common home gadgets still use these kinds of batteries, though, such as remote controls and smoke detectors, not to mention various loud kids toys. Though these disposable batteries shouldn’t be thrown into the garbage, people do that anyway…and more often than not it is due to the relative difficulty of recycling the batteries.
Throwing batteries into the garbage poses multiple risks; there’s concern about the batteries eventually corroding and leaking into the environment, damaging soil and ruining water. These batteries also run the risk of causing fires, which can happened if they end up shorting out on a piece of metal such as landing on a sheet of aluminum foil. These fires can grow quite large depending on where they happen and the nature of the surrounding garbage.
Here to help solve the problem is a new ‘reverse vending machine’ from Refind, which itself received funding from Energizer. These vending machines are designed to be placed in places where people frequent, such as inside of a grocery store. Old batteries are fed into the vending machine, which then rewards the consumer’s environmentally-friendly recycling habit with coupons for the store.
The vending machine uses various technology to recognize the battery size, keeping a log of what it stores; up to 100lbs of batteries can be fed into a machine before it needs emptied. Refind explains that lasers, 3D cameras, deep learning neural networks, and more are used by the machine. The batteries are ultimately taken to a recycling location where they’re properly processed in a way that is best for the environment. The vending machines have been deployed to the public in Norway; plans for further expansion aren’t clear.