Do you wonder why no-one seems interested in recycling button batteries in Australia? They are so small and seemingly insignificant and often end up in general rubbish. I often see them laying in the street. Not a good idea considering they can be fatal if ingested by a child or an animal.
As these batteries are used the silver oxide they contain converts to silver. Processes with silver are more polluting to the environment than many other metals. Gold plating is simpler and less harmful to the environment than silver plating which is quite a toxic and expensive procedure.
There is currently no approved facility for recycling button batteries in Australia. The approved method of recycling button batteries involves wrapping each battery individually in masking tape to prevent arcing, explosion or fire in transit and shipping in bulk to an environmentally friendly recycling facility in France. Once the batteries arrive there they must be unwrapped from the masking tape before recycling.
The cost of recycling to recover silver and other heavy metals from the batteries is about $4 per kilo and half of this cost is consumed by the labour cost of wrapping and unwrapping the batteries.
Batteries that are currently being recycled in Australia are probably not being recycled in a way that is kind to the environment. If you want to be sure your button batteries are recycled responsibly then it may be better to wrap each used battery in masking tape so that they are prepared for transport and accumulate them in a child safe container until such time as responsible recycling is available in Australia, which I believe is at least a year away.