So you have all of these lithium polymer batteries (lipo). They are well used and now reaching the end of their life. So what do you do with them? How exactly should you dispose of them?
The most important part of lipo disposal is making sure to dispose of them safely. These batteries can catch fire. The last thing you want to do is toss them in the garbage, have the garbage truck crush them and possibly catch fire as a result. It is important to be safe and take the proper precautions, ensuring that they remain safe before leaving your care.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate the disposal of small battery quantities. Large quantities of batteries are, however, regulated under 40 CFR PART 273 of the Hazardous Waste Regulations.
Generally, lithium batteries are not accepted by recycling companies and are currently just disposed of after their use. As of now, there are no federal regulations for disposing of small quantities of lithium batteries. The Individual States, or localities, can and have, established their own guidelines for disposal. Individuals should contact their local officials for disposal protocol.
To properly dispose of batteries, the batteries need to be in a discharged condition. A lithium cell is considered to be discharged once its voltage reaches 2 volts or less under a current of C/100. C is the rated capacity of the battery in ampere-hours. So how do you reduce your battery packs down to zero volts? There are a few options, but any electrical load will work. One option is to run your aircraft or helicopter on the ground until the voltage stops. Twelve-volt fans or any source that will accept DC power will also work. Some companies suggest that after you discharge the battery, you ensure the wire leads are insulated, and then soak the battery in a mixture of 60 parts water to 1 part salt, for 2-3 days. Once discharged, lithium batteries can be sent to a hazardous waste facility for incineration.
The shipment of live or discharged lithium batteries is governed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in their Code of Federal Regulations 49 CFR, paragraph 173.185(j).
Incineration of lithium cells and batteries by consumers is considered unsafe and not recommended. Incineration should be done at a properly permitted facility that can handle this type of waste. Contact your waste handler if you are unsure whether or not a facility can handle the batteries.
For home disposal, many stores offer the free recycling of rechargeable batteries (after being discharged). If you cannot find a facility in your area, or if your local officials confirm it is safe, you can dispose of the fully discharged batteries in your regular trash.