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Batteries in Greetings Cards: Don’t Let Them Get Away!

Batteries in Greetings Cards: Don’t Let Them Get Away!

We’re all familiar with them: greetings cards with music, spoken greetings and light effects. But do you also know about the little batteries that make this possible - usually unseen? And do you know what you should do with them when the greetings cards are thrown out with the waste paper? We asked Benny Van den Steen, in charge of the team that visits the Bebat collection points.

‘Happy birthday to you!’, ‘Jingle bells, jingle all the way!’: these are just two of the familiar tunes that sometimes ring out from greetings cards when you open them. A top sales hit: several million of them are sold every year. Not only in the form of cards, but also as little greetings boxes. Less well known are the little batteries that provide the sound and/or the light. They usually stay ‘undercover’, inside the greetings card. After a time, they disappear unnoticed with the waste paper.

Zingende wenskaart

Batteries in the waste paper: why is this not a good idea?

Benny Van den Steen, Field Manager at Bebat, recently did some research into batteries in greetings cards and he tells us more about them. "Why do the batteries in greetings cards merit more attention? There is more than one good reason for this. The returns from traders in recent years show that we are looking at millions of greetings cards with batteries. In most cases, these are small alkaline button cell batteries, two or three per card. When they are thrown out in the greetings card with the waste paper, they make the paper fraction (paper waste flow) impure. Consequently, it is more difficult to recycle the paper, which is something we want to avoid, of course."

Warning: risk of short circuit

Most of the batteries in greetings cards are alkaline button cells, but sometimes a different sort is used: lithium button cells. Van den Steen: “Greetings card manufacturers have assured us that lithium batteries are seldom found in greetings cards, but nevertheless we think we should warn people that they may involve a specific risk. If they are damaged, they can short circuit, which means they heat up and could even combust. That in combination with paper is obviously very risky.”
Read more here about the various sorts of batteries

Knoopcellen in hand

What should you do with batteries from greetings cards?

What can you do to keep these batteries out of the paper flow?

  • Rip the greetings card open until you can see the electronics disk. The button cells (2 or 3) are usually to be found loose in this unit.
  • Remove the button cells carefully with a small screwdriver or pen holder.
  • If you pack them up with 9-volt batteries, protect the poles of the 9-volt batteries with a piece of tape. See here for more safety tips.
  • Take the button cells to a Bebat collection point so that they can be recycled.
  • Can’t remove them because the batteries are stuck down? In that case, remove the entire electronics disk. You can take this (with or without batteries) to a collection point for small electrical appliances.
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