Lithium polymer batteries. They are strong, efficient, and toted as fairly environmentally friendly. So how do you dispose of them to make 100% sure that you aren't contributing to local pollution factors? In this article we will discuss Lithium polymer batteries and some of the methods that you can employ to safely get rid of them once they have served their purpose and have headed off to that great charger in the sky. Let's talk about how to dispose of Lipo batteries.
What are Lipo batteries?
While this is generally well-known in RC circles, some of us out there are used to NIMH batteries and might be using a Lipo battery in a device for the first time. So let's talk about them. Lipo, or Lithium ion polymer batteries are simply rechargeable batteries that employ a polymer electrolyte instead of the standard liquid electrolyte Like any other batteries, they can meet their end of life cycle or become damaged, in which case it is necessary to dispose of them properly. In order to do this, you first need to discharge the Lipo as a pre-disposal step. So how is this done? We're glad that you asked!
How to discharge a lipo battery for disposal
There are a number of ways that you can safely discharge an old or damaged Lipo battery for proper disposal. We've gathered together some of the best ones so that you deal with this issue if it arises with the least amount of inconvenience. They include:
- Salt water discharge
- Light bulb trick
- Using your charger
- Physical obliteration
Let's discuss these options in further detail.
Using Salt Water to discharge your Lithium Polymer battery
Lipo salt water dispoaal is one method, however, it is not the most effective. This is because the process is very slow. The science behind it is that salt water acts as a conductor, allowing the battery to slowly discharge safely within a glass of salt water. Supposedly it will neutralize the lithium as well but we have found no supportive chemistry papers to this effect. That said, it does discharge the battery. We're including the steps here so that you will have them but we should also note at this time there is a slight chance that it may not discharge the battery completely. So while it is one discharge method this is not necessarily the quickest or most efficient method at your dispoal. The steps for using te salt water method are as follows:
- Find a disposable plastic container and fill it up with cold water.
- Add some salt to your water, dissolving about 30 grams of salt for every liter of water in your container.
- Stick the battery in the water and leave it there for a good two weeks. At this point it is about as discharged as it is going to likely get from the salt water.
- Wrap it up in some paper and tape it closed, it is ready for the trash can.
Now that we have discussed the salt water method, let's go into our next. The light bulb trick.
Discharging your Lithium polymer batteries with a light bulb
Another method to discharge a Lipo for disposal involves a light bulb and a little tinkering. While we do not have space in this article to properly describe all of the steps, if you are mechanically inclined or a do-it-yourself type then do a search for "How to build a halogen bulb discharger" and you can get the steps. This is an excellent method that is very effective so be sure to check it out.
"Stick the battery in the water and leave it there for a good two weeks"
Using your charger
Some chargers have a discharge capability that you can employ in order to safely dischare your lithium ion polymer battery. As a general rule, you are going to want to discharge at a rate of 1/10 the current rating of the battery. This means that if you were discharging a battery that rated a 2000 mAh that you would discharge it at .2 A. This allows for a slower and safer discharge before the battery is drained and ready for disposal.
We can't recommend it(and we don't, at all) but for the purposes of being thorough and to warn you what NOT to do we will list it. Some folks will employ home methods of smashing, piercing, shooting, or otherwise physically rending a battery in order to drain it and negate it in one blow. Not only is this a fire hazard but you can produce smoke and toxic fumes. In short, you won't be doing yourself any favors with this method, so if someone recommends you then feel free to thank them and then ignore their advice completely.
Are lithium batteries landfill safe?
Yes. As long as you are discharging the battery properly employing one of the methods that we have provided then these batteries are going to be landfill safe. The batteries themselves are designed to be more environmentally friendly than the liquid electrolyte variety. That said, due to the aforementioned possibilities from the 'physical obliteration' method that we listed, just be sure to ensure that your batteries are drained before disposal.
Where to recycle Lipo batteries
As lithium batteries have become more standard across the board, the number of recycling options has increased. Check with your local county or district in order to see if your local recycling centers have the capacity for recycling lithium polymers and if so, then skip the trash and recycle!
Well, there you have it. We've detailed some methods and means in order for you to properly discharge your lithium ion polymer batteries for safe and efficient disposal. Don't forget to check your local country or district in order to see if recycling is optional if you want to contribute further to helping your local environment. Then replace those batteries, pop them into your favorite RC vehicle, and have a great day!