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New Federal Rules Impact Li-ion Battery Recycling

Concern about the potential safety hazards of shipping large quantities of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries has prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) to adopt new hazardous materials regulations covering the batteries. The rules took effect on October 1 and will impact the cell-phone recycling industry and consumers who want to ship their wireless handsets for recycling.

The new DoT rules require that Li-ion batteries to be shipped in original equipment or have tape over the terminal connections to help prevent short circuits. In addition, the DoT requires packages containing Li-ion batteries to be properly marked and labeled.

One major recycler, ReCellular Inc., says all of its packaging will have the label, “PACKAGE CONTAINS LITHIUM -ION BATTERIES (NO LITHIUM METAL).” ReCellular says it recycles an average of 14,000 lb of Li-ion batteries every month, which are stored and shipped in 55-gallon steel drums in accordance with existing DoT rules.

Most of the rules changes will apply to commercial shipments. But some of the changes will also impact consumers sending small numbers of phones for recycling.

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