The UNLP created the first battery recycling plant in the country

The UNLP created the first battery recycling plant in the country

The Plapimu-Laseisic plant (Multipurpose Pilot Plant and Laboratory of Services to the Industry and the Scientific System) is located on Camino Centenario and Calle 506 in the town of Gonnet, and although it was inaugurated in 2012 as a pilot test, its managers They seek to develop the project in Buenos Aires municipalities and the interior of the country.

This space - a research and development center for different projects belonging to the Faculty of Exact Sciences of the UNLP and the Scientific Research Commission (CIC) - was conceived, designed and originated "with a simple method" and for a recycling process of batteries is "economical and absolutely sustainable", explained Horacio Thomas, in charge of the plant and director of the laboratory.

"The idea was to develop a process that would make it possible to recover the metals present in the exhausted batteries, achieving a dual purpose, on the one hand to avoid the contamination of soil and groundwater and on the other to recover the metals for reuse, reducing mining exploitation and pollution. in their production, "said the specialist, who began working on the project in 2008.

In this sense, he clarified that "the final disposal of exhausted batteries constitutes a serious environmental problem, both due to its magnitude and the scarcity of viable alternatives, from the environmental, social or economic point of view."

In dialogue with Télam, Thomas said that "there are many families who do not know what to do with batteries, and do not want to throw them in the trash, so we consider it important that this recycling issue be taken as a state policy".

He valued that the development of the plant "has a low cost if one takes into account that we are talking about caring for the environment", and specified that "the plant with which we work, which has 15 tubes (for the treatment of batteries) It costs about 400,000 pesos and treats 80 to 100 kilos of batteries per month. "

According to the recycling process, the first step is the classification by size of the exhausted alkaline batteries: small (AAA), medium (AA), large (C) and larger (D).
"By means of a traditional method, the iron casing that covers the batteries is cut; once opened the different components are recovered: steel cover, some paper, the internal mud (because it has a large amount of carbon), and metals that are reused like zinc and manganese, "explained Thomas.

He added that the batteries dumped in landfills with other household waste "lose their casings and suffer corrosion" due to climate action and garbage fermentation processes.
In this stage, the toxic compounds released are filtered contaminating the soil and water. In addition, sometimes they end up being burned, which causes an increase in pollution since it generates very dangerous and carcinogenic substances such as dioxins and furans.

That is why in this plant, once the batteries are separated, they are treated in a sulfuric acid solution generated by a biotechnological process through which the different components that can be reused are separated by precipitation, finally obtaining manganese oxide. and zinc carbonate.

The plant's specialists valued that "the recovered metals can be reinserted into the industry for use, even commercialized so that the value of the plant can be recovered.

In this way, a toxic waste is transformed into something that can be used in various ways. "

Thomas reported that in the Buenos Aires municipality of Pellegrini they are working on the construction of a solid and urban waste treatment plant together with the province's Water Authority, which will include a battery treatment plant for that municipality of 5,000 inhabitants.
"It is important that the municipalities assume the commitment of caring for the environment, we consider that the installation costs are low and the benefit of protecting our land is very high," he explained.

The specialist explained to Télam that as of today they cannot be a battery reception center, "since there is no operational capacity to treat tons of batteries", but he asked citizens not to throw the batteries in the trash with the other waste domiciliary.


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