Your Bebat contribution makes the difference: find out what we use it for
Are you affiliated to Bebat? You can be proud of that because, thanks to your contributions and those of the other participants, we can do so much, not only for you and others, but also for nature and society as a whole.
In this article, take a look behind the scenes and find out what exactly Bebat uses your contributions for.
This can be summarised in four key words:
We will briefly focus on each of these four.
First and foremost: make everyone aware
What is the very, very first thing we do? It’s essential because otherwise there is no point in collecting, sorting and recycling batteries.
Indeed: making as many people in our society as possible aware of and drawing attention to:
- the many batteries that surround us (far more than you think!);
- how to maximise the use of your batteries;
- the valuable raw materials batteries contain and which can be reused;
- how important it is to collect as many used batteries as possible, so that they don’t end up with residual waste, but can instead be sorted separately and recycled.
- a permanent task for all of us, at all ages.
All in all, this is a real challenge for which we use all sorts of communication channels.
You can read more about how we go about this in the article Everything starts with awareness-raising.
But where can everyone bring batteries?
That's an easy question to answer in our country. Every citizen lives no further than 400 metres from a Bebat collection point. One per 500 inhabitants: there are more collection points than ATMs in Belgium. And we are very proud of that.
Bebat collection points - now some 24,000 - can be found in easily accessible places, such as supermarkets, schools and companies. This makes bringing in batteries a mere child's play. We share a lot of tips & tricks for safely collecting batteries. We also provide free collection materials for this purpose, such as small collection cubes.
Thus, the batteries - 3,357 tons per year - quickly make their way to Sortbat, Bebat's subsidiary, which makes sure that each battery reaches its peers.
Sorting in 5 steps
With your Bebat contribution, we not only take care of awareness-raising and collecting, but also of the next step: an advanced sorting process.
Why is that so important? Simply because different batteries with different chemical compositions require different recycling processes.
It’s therefore crucial that we sort batteries properly. This way, they immediately end up in the right fraction (or waste stream). And then, they can be recycled in an optimal way.
In Belgium, this happens at Sortbat in Tienen, a Bebat subsidiary, as mentioned above. All collected batteries are sorted there in five steps.
Step 1: Pre-sorting
The collected batteries are placed on a conveyor belt. There, the Sortbatters remove large packs such as computer batteries, power tools, etc. from the stream. These packs are neatly sorted into 4 sub-streams based on their composition: rechargeable lithium, alkaline, lead and nickel- cadmium. The remaining batteries are sorted further down the line.
Step 2: Manual sorting
In this phase, Sortbat employees manually remove the smaller packs (nickel cadmium (NiCd), nickel metal hydride (NiMH) and rechargeable lithium) from the conveyor belt. At this stage, they also remove the other waste from the belt. What remains are ordinary cylinder batteries and button cells.
Did you know that? ...
Do you know what Sortbat employees sometimes find among the batteries?
You’ll be amazed! Drink cans, but also food waste, paper and even nappies, light bulbs, sharp objects and syringes. It goes without saying that they remove them and dispose of them properly. However, it's not pleasant.
Let's all do our bit. Never forget that Bebat collection points are for used batteries, nothing more and nothing less.
Step 3: Magnetic sorting
All batteries that are still on the belt now end up in a magnetic sorting station. Batteries with a non-magnetic casing, such as some zinc batteries and button cells, go in a separate box because they are likely to contain heavy metals. The other batteries travel on to the next sorting steps.
Step 4: Mechanised sorting
The batteries are now filtered according to size and width by means of a vibrating platform with ever-increasing gratings. 9 volt batteries, 4.5 volt batteries and the remaining button cell batteries are separated and ach go into their own recycling stream. The AAA, AA, C and D batteries proceed to a final stage.
Step 5: Automatic sorting
All batteries are now properly sorted by size, but their chemical composition can still vary. Now the batteries are further sorted by a high-tech machine according to their size, weight and magnetic resonance. And the machine does it 99.5% correctly.
After the whole sorting process, it's time for the next chapter. We deliver the batteries to approved recycling companies. These ensure optimal recycling.
And then: battery recycling
You guessed it: each type of battery is recycled in a specific way. But the aim is always the same: to recover valuable raw materials from discarded batteries for reuse in batteries, as well as in many other applications.
For example, did you know that…
- Roofs and windows sometimes contain zinc from zinc carbon batteries?
- The mercury is first distilled from button cells and what remains is further recycled. The metals, in particular, are reused in numerous applications.
- The battery acid is first removed from lead-acid vehicle batteries. Then the batteries are melted in an oven; the plastic serves as fuel, along with coke or they are recycled. The lead that is released is refined to make new lead batteries or roofing materials, or to be used as protection during x-rays and radiotherapy.
You can find out more about recycling and new applications here.
Everything starts with awareness-raising
Do you put (products containing) batteries on the Belgian market?
We have no doubt that you are a responsible producer or importer, with the best intentions to see the batteries you put on the market properly collected, sorted and recycled. Great!
However, without the general public’s cooperation, this will be a difficult, or maybe impossible, task. That’s why Bebat puts a lot of effort into raising awareness in order to encourage everyone to have a sound collection reflex. We constantly address questions such as:
How do you collect batteries? How do you store them safely? Where do you take them?
Through clear communication, we encourage consumers to store used batteries separately at home and to bring them to a Bebat collection point. As you know, there is always one nearby.
We communicate about this continuously and through all kinds of channels. Especially now that more (and very large) batteries are appearing on the market, the contribution you pay as a Bebat participant is essential to set up effective awareness-raising campaigns.
Through all sorts of channels
We continuously raise public awareness through various media.
Radio & TV
- Through radio and TV campaigns, for example. In 2019, batteries were spotlighted by GEZOCHT, a campaign in collaboration with OVAM.
- In February 2020, we were proud to announce the results of the wanted campaign in collaboration with OVAM: we collected no less than 26,164,754 batteries (link in dutch) in Flanders.
- In the Brussels-Capital Region, too, everyone was called upon to go on a battery hunt together (link in dutch).
Website and social media
- Moreover, Bebat is continually present on the Internet via the website bebat.be and on social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn, with tens of thousands of followers. Since the start of the blog on bebat.be, more than 100 blog articles have been published, mostly on prevention and on how to handle batteries safely. However, also about everything Bebat does for you as a producer/importer of (products with) batteries. These blog articles receive extra attention through social media posts. In 2020, Bebat reached 38,000 readers this way.
Children & young people
- Special attention is given to children and young people. With Villa Pila (The House of the Battery), Bebat runs an educational programme for schools that allows children to discover the wonderful world of batteries in a playful manner and learn all about collecting and recycling them.
- To give the battery hunt an extra boost, there are occasional Double Points actions. Throughout the year, schools can earn points that they exchange for fun school supplies from the Bebat webshop. Now and then, there are 2 x and even 3 x points to be won. And that makes the collected volumes grow considerably!
In short, with your contribution you charge the 'Bebat battery', so that together we become powerful drivers for a better planet!