Researchers from Japan have developed a microwave-based heating system for the recycling of alkaline batteries that could offer a cost and energy-efficient alternative to the conventional processes.
Scientists from Ritsumeikan University used microwave irradiation, which offers selective, rapid heating and reduced energy consumption compared to furnace-based heating.
The team found that microwave-based heating achieved a recovery rate of 97% of manganese oxide and zinc from the alkaline batteries during an empirical study using data from 1,710 municipalities in Japan.
The empirical study was used to explore the usability of the technique before they conducted an analytical case study to examine the effectiveness of distributed recycling systems in Japan.
The analytical study revealed a balance between centralised and distributed recycling systems could reduce annual energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions across Japan by 26,500 GJ and 1.54 Gg-CO2eq, respectively.
Professor Shoki Kosai, a member of the research team and the first author of the study, said: “The feasibility to decentralise the recycling of e-waste needs to be analysed, considering the different characteristics of each municipality.
“Through the adoption of this system, areas where natural resources are not available will gain the opportunity to become suppliers of secondary resources. This system could also remedy the problem of metal recycling in developing countries.”
The team’s findings were published in the peer-reviewed transdisciplinary journal Resources, Environment and Sustainability with the title ‘Distributed recycling system with microwave-based heating for obsolete alkaline batteries’.