The Dark Side of Business Battery e-Waste. Why Smarterlite Environmental Exit Signs are a Safer Choice.

Box full of batteries removed from AS/NZS2293 electric-battery Exit Signs

Emergency exit signs are a crucial safety element in any building and are mandated by Australia’s National Construction Code (NCC). However, the batteries used in traditional electric exit signs also pose a hidden danger – battery waste and the associated fire risk. They’re part of the problem identified by the Australian Council of Recycling regarding battery-related fires. Find out how to eliminate what could be your organisation’s biggest contribution to eWaste and the fire risk of battery e-waste.

The Dark Side of Batteries: Battery e-Waste and Fire Risk

Batteries are a ubiquitous part of modern life, powering everything from smartphones to exit signs. However, their convenience comes at a cost. Hundreds of millions of batteries are discarded each year, and a significant portion ends up in landfills. Improper disposal of batteries can lead to environmental contamination due to the presence of heavy metals like mercury and cadmium.

But the problem doesn’t end there. The Australian Council of Recycling and the Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW have reported a rise in battery-related fires, often caused by improper storage or disposal. Their research found that loose and embedded batteries are causing around 30 fires per day across Australia – equivalent to 10,000 to 12,000 battery related fires a year.

They also advised that there are few options for the safe disposal of many types of items that contain batteries, which ultimately means that the community, including businesses, is often left with no way to do the right thing or the cost of doing the right thing is seen as too onerous. Incorrectly disposing of products containing batteries in general waste or general recycling bins leads to fires and injuries in the waste and recycling sectors. Product stewardship schemes, where manufacturers or brands take responsibility for the entire life cycle of their products, do not apply to most items with batteries.

E-Waste Woes: Replacing Powered Electric-Battery Exit Signs

When traditional powered electric-battery exit signs, also known as AS/NZS2293 exit signs, reach the end of their lifespan, they become e-waste. The lighting industry’s own data shows that only an insignificant 5% are recycled across Australia, the other 95% are ending up in landfills in your community. And this leads to a major problem for the recycling and waste industries, when waste containing batteries is incorrectly transported, sorted or disposed of in landfill.

The recycling process for eWaste is complex and expensive, and not all facilities have the capability to handle all types of e-waste. This leaves businesses with a dilemma: how to responsibly dispose of old electric-battery exit signs while ensuring compliance with local regulations and doing the right thing by the environment.

For businesses with hundreds, or even thousands, of electric-battery exit signs across their operations, the cumulative battery e-waste becomes a significant concern. If they are not seeing evidence that their electric-battery exit signs are being correctly disposed of, they are part of the problem.

For smaller businesses, leaving it to your sparkie to do the right thing with the AS2293 exit signs they remove, is turning a blind eye to the problem. The cheap local sparkie or electrical contractor is probably not going to drive across the city to dispose of a handful of electric-battery exit signs at an approved facility – and if they were, the emissions from driving would not be good for the environment either. There’s a good chance those AS2293 exit signs are ending up in your skip bin, or their skip bin when back at their office.

Depending on the quality of your AS2293 exit signs and their batteries, they may need replacing as frequently as every year, or up to about every four years. There’s a good chance that your facility’s exit signs may be one of your largest sources of eWaste.

The sheer volume of AS2293 electric-battery exit signs that are discarded every year is a major challenge for proper disposal, in addition to the potential fire risk of every electric-battery product.

Smarterlite: Shining a Light on a Sustainable Solution

Smarterlite’s Environmental Exit Signs offer a compelling alternative to traditional electric signs by not having electric-batteries that will become electric-battery e-waste. These innovative signs come in two configurations:

  • Pure Photoluminescent: These signs utilize a specially formulated material that absorbs ambient light and re-emits it as a visible glow during power outages or low-light conditions. They require no electrical wiring, batteries, or network connection, eliminating battery waste and the associated fire risk.
  • Hybrid Photoluminescent & LED: These signs combine photoluminescent technology with energy-efficient LED lights. The LEDs provide continuous illumination under normal conditions, while the photoluminescent material offers backup illumination during emergencies. Like the pure photoluminescent option, these eliminate the need for batteries.

Both configurations offer significant advantages for businesses concerned about safety, sustainability, and fire risk:

  • No Batteries: By eliminating batteries altogether, Smarterlite signs remove the risk of improper disposal and battery-related fires.
  • Reduced E-Waste: The extended lifespan (over 30 years) and lack of electronic components minimize e-waste generation. That means they can be recycled in a wider range of approval eWaste facilities.
  • Sustainable Operation: Smarterlite signs require no ongoing energy consumption and have a much longer life (16+ years or 30+ years, depending on the model), making them a significantly more environmentally-friendly choice.

A Brighter Future for Building Safety

Smarterlite’s Environmental Exit Signs provide a brighter future for building safety. By eliminating battery e-waste and the associated fire risk, they offer peace of mind for businesses and building managers. Additionally, having a significantly longer life and no batteries, the reduced e-waste contributes to a more sustainable future. Smarterlite also operate a Take Back Scheme for its end-of-life signs so that signs can be repaired or components re-used.

In a world increasingly concerned about environmental impact and fire safety, Smarterlite offers a compelling solution. For businesses seeking to prioritise safety, sustainability, and responsible waste management, Smarterlite Environmental Exit Signs are the clear choice.

Contact us today to learn more about how Smarterlite can illuminate your path to a safer and more sustainable future.

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