Posting lithium batteries: regulations, different kinds of batteries and the items they power.

Shipping Batteries by Courier

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Can you Send Batteries in the Post?

Shipping lithium batteries abroad is not as simple as it may seem. There are quite a few different rules and regulations one needs to abide by in order to get these items from point A to point B securely and without any legal trouble along the way. A lot of it depends on how the batteries are packaged, their state, and whether or not they are labelled correctly.

Even if you're not planning to ship a single, naked lithium battery, you should familiarise yourself with the international regulations that govern such activities. After all, these batteries are used in mobile phones, laptops, and plenty of other objects we use on a daily basis. The rules are different depending on the size, weight, and purpose of the battery in question.

So is shipping batteries by courier a complicated ordeal? If you're not properly educated on the subject, then it most certainly can be. This article will teach you how to ship lithium batteries safely, share some packaging guidelines, as well as show you how to save money on worldwide shipping by courier.

Posting Lithium Batteries: Regulations, Different Kinds of Batteries and the Items They Power

You might be wondering why we're focusing so much on lithium, all the while completely ignoring the equally popular alkaline batteries. The reason is simple: they are not as strictly regulated as their lithium counterparts.

Common household-use batteries such as AA, AAA, C, or D-sized alkalines are not considered hazardous and therefore are barely paid any attention by customs officers. So if you were worried about shipping your regular battery sticks to a family member abroad, or as an addition to your product, you can rest easy. Your items can safely be shipped with any courier service.

Now, lithium and lithium-ion batteries are a much different story. Their shipping is tightly regulated by IATA (International Air Transport Association), as well as individual postal services in various countries. In this text, we'll focus only on IATA's guidelines regarding posting lithium batteries. For safety's sake, you should also always double-check with official websites of your origin and destination countries prior to shipping.

Shipping Lithium Batteries by Air

International shipping is mostly done by cargo planes. Therefore, the first question that may pop into your head may be: is shipping lithium batteries by plane even legal?

IATA is actually quite adamant about not allowing anyone to send lithium batteries by air. There is a catch, though: this restriction only applies to lithium metal batteries by themselves, i.e. not placed inside or next to a device they are meant to power. Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, are fair game as long as their charge does not exceed 30% of their total power capacity.

What Items Use Lithium Batteries?

You will rarely find yourself in a situation where you'd have to ship lithium batteries separately. Of course, there are scenarios where that might be the case, but they're likely going to pertain to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries rather than the forbidden, lithium metal kind. Keep in mind that both kinds are very commonly used in countless portable electronic devices, so it might be worth it to familiarise yourself with that distinction to avoid a situation where you try to ship lithium metal batteries packed separately.

Items Containing Lithium Metal Batteries

These are small, non-rechargeable lithium batteries, and can therefore be found in smaller devices, such as:

  • cameras
  • watches
  • calculators
  • car keys

They can also be found in emergency medical devices like defibrillators. It is worth noting that manufacturers are slowly, but surely moving away from using lithium metal batteries because they are non-rechargeable, pose more of a hazard, and are simply unsustainable to keep using in the long run. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of lithium metal batteries in circulation.

Items Containing Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-ion are some of the most common batteries on Earth right now. This is due to the omnipresence of smart electronic devices and the ever-increasing popularity of electric modes of transportation. Here are some of the most popular items that make use of lithium-ion batteries:

  • mobile phones
  • laptops
  • smartwatches
  • tablets
  • power tools
  • electric bikes, scooters, and cars

It is impossible to list all products that may contain lithium-ion batteries in a single article. However, if you're trying to ship an electronic device that is rechargeable then you can safely assume that it is powered by such a battery.

Battery Packaging Guidelines

If you're trying to send batteries abroad, the most important thing you need to pay attention to is that they're packaged carefully. Even if you obey the shipping restrictions, not knowing how to safely pack batteries (or other electronic items, for that matter) can land you in a whole heap of trouble.

Battery shipping restrictions can be quite complex and unintelligible for someone who's not too well-versed in legal wording. Thankfully, they all pertain towards the safety of transporting these items. Follow the guidelines below to learn how to pack your batteries safely and in accordance with the regulations.

  • Minimise the risks of short-circuiting by:

    • Using non-conductive materials to protect the battery terminals,
    • If you ship lithium-ion batteries outside of devices, make sure to keep them in fully enclosed inner packaging,
    • Keep your batteries far away from other metal objects,
  • Adhere to the following best practices:

    • Refrain from putting heavy items on top of your batteries,
    • If you're shipping a mobile phone, make sure that it's turned off before packing it up,
    • Use strong, rigid outer packaging - if you're planning to put the batteries in a cardboard box, put tape around it for extra safety and make sure that its size corresponds with the contents of the package containing lithium batteries,
    • Label your shipment correctly - this will let the courier know to handle it with care as it contains batteries,
    • Don't ever ship damaged or faulty lithium batteries as they are known to catch fire easily.

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Running an online store can be one of the most fulfilling things you'll ever do. Building your own business and selling products you actually care about is a dream for many people. However, it also comes with a lot of shipping-related logistic challenges that can distract you from doing what you're passionate about.

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