Primary batteries are the non-rechargeable consumer batteries. They make up the majority of batteries used by householders and are commonly known as 'dry cell' batteries. Primary batteries are manufactured in three shapes; cylindrical (AAA, AA, C and D sizes), rectangular (six and nine volt sizes) and the button batteries.
are best suited to high rate, continuous drain uses such as flashlights, radios, toys and electronic equipment. Their mercury content is about 1% by weight, newer low mercury alkaline batteries contain only 0.025% mercury
. Alkaline batteries come in cylindrical, rectangular and also button sizes for cameras, computers and other devices.
are used in a similar application as the alkaline batteries but mainly for intermittent use and light to medium drain conditions. They also contain about 1% mercury but the new 'green' batteries are completely free of mercury
. They come in cylindrical and rectangular sizes.
are available in a wide range of formulations and sizes including buttons. They have a lithium anode and a non-aqueous electrolyte system. They are free of mercury but lithium metal is highly reactive and these batteries may pose safety hazards in storage and handling.
Mercuric oxide batteries contain 35% or more mercury
and are used when reliable, long life power sources are required, such as hearing aids, watches, cameras and medical devices. These batteries also contain potassium hydroxide.
Silver oxide button batteries
have a silver oxide cathode
and are used in watches, calculators, cameras and military applications where a high current rate and constant voltage is required.
The toxicity, reactivity and mobility of the separate battery components are the main potential hazards associated with the management of primary batteries.The main components that could potentially create environmental and health problems are mercury, silver and lithium
It is a common belief within community and environmental groups that all batteries are an environmental and health hazard due to possible groundwater contamination
. The chemical composition of the primary battery waste stream has changed to less toxic alternatives due to measures implemented by battery manufacturers. For example: a reduction of mercury in carbon-zinc and alkaline batteries has reduced the potential environmental impact of these batteries. Source: WABatteries Australia