Proper Way to Disposal of Lithium Polymer Battery

To begin with, damaged lithium polymer batteries (and even undamaged ones) can be extremely dangerous. The horror stories are very well-known, but new RC hobbist typically don’t come across good info on proper handling, storage, and disposal of lipos until well after they’ve begun their journey into the hobby. Usually, it takes a search for “why is my lipo so swollen?” before people get the spiel about the dangers of lipos. The scary part is that most people would have squeezed and poked at the RC lipo before they ever do the research. And typically, if you’re new, you’re doing some crashing and hard landings that bang the battery up even more.

The most important part of lipo disposal is to make the lipo safe, safe to be crushed in a garbage truck or safe when tossed in the recycle bin. We do not want to pass off a potentially dangerous lipo to people that do not understand what it is or how to handle it. As such I believe we have a responsibility to make them safe before they leave our care.

So, what is the safest way to dispose of LiPos? Enter the humble incandescent 12 volt automobile taillight bulb. If you have any skill at all at soldering (and you’ll need it anyway if you do anything with electric RC) it’s very easy to solder some wire to the contacts of a 12 volt automobile taillight, add whatever your battery connector of choice is to the other end and insulate it with electric tape or heat shrink. To dispose of your battery, just plug the battery into the taillight, put it somewhere where it’s safe (I use the holes in a cinderblock with a plastic baggie full of sand above - if the battery blows the baggie will melt and the sand will pour over the battery) and leave it until the bulb goes out. Then leave it for some hours more, check the voltage to make sure the battery is completely discharged, cut of the battery connector, strip the wires and twist them together. Then dispose or recycle the now completely safe battery. A single taillight bulb will work for up to a 11.1v lipo pack of any size, use two taillights in series for 4S lipo battery or more.

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Home made battery disposal

The first task is to drain the battery to 0V as Lithium polymer batteries are safe if carrying no voltage then you need to ensure no more charge can build up, the following will guide you through it.

  • Grab a bucket of sand and place it outside with the battery inside.
  • Connect an led or small lamp to the battery and drain it completely, leave connected for 1 day after the led stops glowing.
  • Cut the connectors off the battery.
  • Strip the wires
  • Join the red and black wires to create a short circuit and prevent any build up of voltage.
  • LiPo Battery successfully stabilised and you can safely dispose in the regular trash.

A slow discharge produces less heat and is much more safer then draining the battery fast with a motor or high load connection.

Hopefully I have dispelled the myth of salt water LiPo disposal, and I hope that this helps people who are looking for a safe way to dispose of their LiPos.