E-Waste Recycling Spotlight: Laptop Batteries

E-Waste Recycling Spotlight: Laptop Batteries

Recycling Spotlight: Laptop Batteries

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at PC Pro? We say we recycle your old electronics, but what really happens? Follow us over the coming weeks to see what happens to each and every component in the devices you donate. This week, our focus is on one of the most likely components to go bad in your laptop: the battery.

Most modern laptop batteries are the rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) type. Inside the black plastic shell of your laptop battery is anywhere from four to twelve individual cells, shaped like your household AA battery but around twice the size. Over their lifespan, these batteries degrade for a number of reasons including overuse, underuse, improper storage or manufacturing flaws. Once one or more of these cells lose their ability to perform properly, your laptop battery as a whole may stop working. Once that happens, the battery is typically replaced and discarded even though most of it is likely still useable.

Bad lithium-ion laptop battery 18650 cell
One of the cells in this laptop battery has leaked electrolyte and failed, causing the whole battery to stop working

That's where we come in. With some simple tools and a bit of knowledge, these laptop batteries can be torn down, separated and tested for safety, capacity, and a number of other characteristics. We use the Zanflare C4 Smart Charger, capable of testing four cells at a time, to test all of our batteries. It's not fast by any means, but it gives us a way to keep hazardous e-waste out of the landfill and make a few bucks every once in a while. In fact, it took us over a month of nonstop testing to test all of the batteries shown in the photos on this page. Hobbyists are always interested in purchasing tested lithium-ion batteries for use in Tesla Powerwalls, vape pens and portable electronics, and we intend to get them into the right hands.

Laptop lithium-ion 18650 batteriy cells
300 individual cells were recovered from donated laptop batteries in March


Of course, there are safety concerns. We have to keep fireproof containers on hand to store damaged or dangerous batteries. Additionally, a good portion of the batteries we test fail to meet quality standards. That means we have to store these little sticks of dynamite by the dozen until they can be recycled through a larger facility. Piercing a lithium-ion battery causes a short-lived inferno that is capable of burning a house down. If you plan on recycling these at home, store them insulated from one another to keep the contacts from touching and possibly causing a short. Tape works to cover the ends of bad batteries, but you can buy storage trays for batteries you plan on keeping.

Lithium Ion battery exploding outside
This is what one exploding battery looks like. Stay safe if you're storing hundreds. Photo credit: FliteTest; https://youtu.be/0nrsoMsEMNU

Donate Now

Do you have electronics to donate for reuse or recycling? Call us at (719)345-2345 or e-mail coloradopcpro@gmail.com. We provide free in-home and in-business pickups and will arrange transportation for larger donations. Rest assured, we erase your data securely and can even give it back to you on an external hard drive or thumb drive upon request.

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