Lithium batteries

Lithium batteries have become established as a common form of energy storage for portable devices. They are used in a wide range of domestic, commercial, and industrial products, including mobile phones, laptops, tablets, cameras, cordless power tools, defibrillators, etc.  They come various shapes, sizes, voltages, and charge capacities.  Some of the button cells found in watches, and  the battery packs in electric vehicles both use lithium based chemistry.

Lithium batteries can cause fires due to mishandling, misuse, or poor quality manufacturing. Increasingly, fires are starting at waste transfer stations and recycling facilities from damaged lithium batteries setting the surround waste alight.  If the batteries or the product containing the battery proves to cause fires they are subject to recalls.

Because of their inherent danger they have stringent shipping controls placed on them, especially for for air transport.

Lithium batteries have differing chemical processes and are sold under names such as Li-ion, LiPo, lithium metal etc.  The most common type used in consumer electronics is the Li-ion type and can be found in mobile phones, cameras, laptop computers, and may other portable electronic devices.  LiPo batteries are common in remote controlled models. Lithium metal batteries have a number of specialist applications.

Lithium batteries are able to be recycled to recover the materials from which they are made.  As well as lithium the Li-ion batteries contain cobalt, a valuable material that has various humanitarian issues associated with the mining of it, notably in Africa.

UN codes for lithium batteries

Number Class Shipping name
UN 3090 9 Lithium metal batteries
UN 3091 9 Lithium metal batteries contained in equipment or Lithium metal batteries packed with equipment
UN 3480 9 Lithium ion batteries (including lithium ion polymer batteries)
UN 3481 9 Lithium ion batteries contained in equipment or Lithium ion batteries packed with equipment (including lithium ion polymer batteries)

Further information