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Truth or Fiction: Alkaline Battery Plant Food

Power - by Joe Weber - updated on 7/6/2023

Overhead view of a battery shaped object in a wooded area

Many articles are floating around the internet about how alkaline batteries can be recycled and turned into plant fertilizer. Is there any truth to this or is this just another myth to be busted?

It's True!

This isn't something out of a science fiction novel, this is actually a real thing. Now, don't get your hopes up and think you'll be able to see "alkaline fertilizer" on a shelf at your local gardening store any time soon. The process of turning batteries into usable plant food is still very new and still being researched and perfected.

Now to get the important thing out of the way, do NOT go outside and throw your used alkaline batteries, like your AAs and AAAs, into your garden and water them. That is not going to work and that is actually an incredibly harmful thing to do for the environment.

Why Turn Batteries Into Plant Food?

In order to understand the reasoning behind this new development, we need to revisit why we care about this to begin with. Battery recycling is a huge problem in the world. In the United States alone, the Environmental Protection Agency   estimates an average of 180,000 tons of batteries are thrown into the trash each year instead of being properly recycled.

The main "ingredients" in alkaline batteries are Zinc and Manganese. Both Zinc and Manganese are important elements in plant nutrition if used in the right amounts. If a process can be figured out to remove all of the other materials harmful to the environment to leave only the helpful nutrients, then you have a battery-based plant food. Science is fun!

A Finnish company, Tracegrow  , is doing exactly that. They've figured out a way to strip away all of the harmful materials to create a one-of-a-kind, quite effective, plant food. Currently, the fertilizer from Tracegrow is used in 15 countries around the world, and growing. It is not available for use in the U.S. at this time.

How Do They Turn Batteries Into Plant Food?

The details of the process are closely guarded secrets, but in a nutshell, the process follows a path like this:

  • Recycled batteries are taken to their processing plant.
  • The batteries are crushed down to what is known as "black mass"
    • Black mass is what remains after crushing alkaline batteries and the ferrous metals have been magnetically separated, which leaves a mixture of zinc, manganese, steel, plastic, paper, graphite as well as some harmful metals such as nickel.
  • The black mass is turned into a liquid and sent through a revolutionary 2-step purification process.
    • The two purification processes remove all microplastics and harmful chemicals and compounds.
  • The end result is what they call ZM-Grow  , which can be used as a foliar fertilizer (applied directly to the leaves of the plant), a seed dressing or a coating for granular fertilizers.

Why Is Recycling So Important?

Recycling in general is a very common practice and most people are aware of how recycling can benefit their community. However, there are four huge reasons to recycle batteries that may not be common knowledge.

1. It's the law

While there is no singular nationwide regulation on recycling, each state and even local municipalities have their own recycling laws. It's important to check with your local waste management company or municipality to find out what laws are in your area. Failure to comply with these laws can result in hefty fines.

2. It keeps bad stuff out of landfills

Do you know what happens to batteries when they sit in a landfill? They break down. Leaking chemicals into the soil and potentially into the water. It's bad for humans and for the environment. Recycling your batteries and electronics helps keep these harmful chemicals out of the soil and water, making it better for everyone.

3. It reduces the need for new raw materials

Mining for raw materials used to manufacture batteries is a very large, very messy, process. During the mining process, many potentially toxic metals can be released into the environment. Not to mention that most of these miners work in very dangerous conditions, often in third-world countries.

4. It promotes the reuse of materials

The nice thing about the materials used in battery production is that they are almost infinitely recyclable. Sadly, however, many are just sitting in landfills going to waste. Recycling allows manufacturers to use recycled raw materials to make new products. Easing up the need for massive mining operations.

What Can I Do to Help?

If you've got old batteries laying around, waiting to be tossed, bring them into Batteries Plus! We've got a pretty simple goal here, to recycle more than we sell. But we can't do that without your help.

We recycle because it's better for our customers, our communities and the planet. Bring in your dead batteries, burned-out light bulbs and your small electronics and let us dispose of them properly for you. Check out our recycling page to see all that we have to offer.

Different states and municipalities have different requirements for recycling. It's important to check with your local store for more information about any fees that may be associated with any recycling before you bring your batteries for recycling.

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