Study: Rechargeable batteries used in laptops, cell phones harmful for soil

A new study from the University of Minnesota found lithium ion batteries used to power laptops and cell phones can be harmful to important microorganisms in soil.

Researchers at the U of M and the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered the nanoscale materials, such as cobalt and nickel, found in rechargeable batteries are toxic to bacteria in the soil. These materials are being used more frequently in new technologies because they are cheap and good at storing energy.

When the compound nickel manganese oxide breaks down and releases those materials into the environment, it inhibits growth and respiration in the soil, according to a news release.

Researchers say the biggest challenge now will be encouraging people to recycle their old batteries to keep them out of landfills, where they can have negative effects on the environment.