How to Dispose of Old Batteries the Right Way
By Meghan Paynter, February 27, 2018, original content posted here.
When a battery in your home dies, do you know the right way to get rid of it? Or even what the most sustainable option is?
With so many wireless electronics in your home, it’s important to know what to do with your dead batteries. This can vary based on what they’re used for. For instance, you should treat the batteries in your TV remote differently from the rechargeable ones in your laptop or digital camera since they could be both hazardous and illegal to throw away, depending on where you live. Keep reading for more details about the different types of household batteries and how to dispose of them.
How to Dispose of Household Batteries
Getting Rid of Single-Use Batteries
Single-use batteries, of any size, are some of the most common household batteries. Single-use batteries can be found throughout the home in a variety of sizes including AA, AAA, 9V, D-cell and others. These are the batteries inside your TV remotes, flashlights, children’s toys and other small electronics. If the battery is not rechargeable, it falls into this category.
Can single-use batteries be thrown in the trash?
Yes, single-use batteries are now made of common metals deemed non-hazardous by the federal government and can be disposed of in your regular trash in all states except California, where it is illegal to throw away all types of batteries. Prior to 1996, single-use batteries contained mercury and were treated as hazardous waste. One exception is a button cell battery found in a watch, which is hazardous and should be disposed of like a rechargeable battery.
Can single-use batteries be recycled?
Yes, it is possible to recycle single-use batteries, but there is a fee associated with recycling them in most cases.
“It’s important to remember that every battery can be recycled, turned into a secondary commodity and have a productive life beyond powering our favorite devices.” Melissa Kelley | Director, Marketing Communications at Battery Solutions
How to recycle single-use batteries:
- Call your local solid waste district to find out if your community has a collection program or upcoming event.
- Search the area for recycling centers that accept single-use batteries using Earth911’s Recycling Search.
- Find a mail-in recycling program that accepts batteries. Most of these programs will sell you a container to store used batteries that can be mailed when filled. Battery Solutions and Call2Recycle both offer options for recycling alkaline batteries in the mail.
Pro Tip: You can reduce your need for disposing of single-use batteries by purchasing rechargeable batteries instead. These can be used more than 1,000 times and recycled at no cost to you.
“[Akaline] batteries are typically found in smoke detectors, remotes and wall clocks. We [at Battery Solutions] collect, sort and recycle more than 6 million pounds of alkaline batteries a year. Using our mechanical process to grind the batteries into three different products; a paper, plastic and brass fraction, a steel fraction, and a zinc manganese concentrate. The zinc manganese concentrate is used as a micronutrient in fertilizer to grow corn! Talk about versatility!” Melissa Kelley | Director, Marketing Communications at Battery Solutions
How to Dispose of Rechargeable Batteries
Rechargeable batteries are also common in the home. You’ll find them in cellphones, digital cameras, power tools, laptops and other more powerful electronics in your home.
There are many different kinds of rechargeable batteries:
- Nickel metal hydride and nickel cadmium batteries are found in electronics such as cordless power tools, digital cameras, two-way radios and cordless phones.
- Lithium-ion batteries are found in most portable devices such as cellphones and laptops.
- Small sealed lead acid batteries are less common in homes and are found in emergency devices, emergency exit signs, security systems, mobility scooters and other special-use items.
Can rechargeable batteries be thrown in the trash?
No, rechargeable batteries of any kind should not be placed in your trash can (or dumpster). It is illegal in some states to do so because rechargeable batteries contain heavy metals that can be hazardous to the environment.
Can rechargeable batteries be recycled?
Yes, rechargeable batteries can, and should be, recycled, usually at no cost to you.
Where to recycle rechargeable batteries:
- Home improvement or office supply stores often accept these products for recycling by hosting a drop box from an organization like Call2Recycle. Find a drop box to recycle batteries near you.
- Find other recycling facilities using Earth911’s Recycling Search or calling your local solid waste district or city hall.
Why Recycle Batteries?
“First, some batteries have potentially toxic metals in them such as cadmium, lead and, historically, mercury. Diverting these metals from landfill and recycling them instead is important to ensure that the metals don’t leak out of landfills and pollute our drinking water. Second, most batteries can be recycled, which means potentially valuable material, particularly metals, can be reclaimed from them. Recycling batteries minimizes the need to mine virgin resources.” Carl Smith | CEO & President of Call2Recycle, Inc.
Preparing Your Batteries for Recycling
Once you find a way to recycle your old batteries, take a few minutes to prep your batteries for safe and convenient recycling.
Prepping single-use batteries for recycling:
- Place a piece of non-conductive clear tape over the ends to prevent any current transfer. You can also bag each battery individually instead of taping the ends.
- Store the batteries in a plastic or cardboard container that doesn’t conduct electricity in case there is a spark.
Prepping rechargeable batteries for recycling:
- Remove batteries from their electronics. Dead laptops must be recycled separately from dead laptop batteries. This is not required for small electronics like cellphones or iPods, which can be accepted by most battery recyclers.
- Cover the terminals with non-conductive tape clear tape.
If you are mailing your batteries to a recycling facility, check for any additional safety steps required for shipping.
Batteries and any other types of waste that could potentially contribute chemicals to the environment should be handled with care, especially when it comes to disposal. If you have other items to get rid of, take a look at the Reuse and Recycle section of our blog for disposal options before tossing them in your dumpster.