How to Safely Dispose and Recycle Batteries: What You Need to Know!
When the batteries are toast in your devices, do you throw them unashamedly in the trash, or feel bad for two minutes then throw them in the trash anyway?
And forget throwing them in your recycling bin, as most recycling collection companies do not accept batteries. So, what do you do now?
Batteries contain heavy metals and chemicals that help power your electronics and automobiles. These components are fine for our health inside the battery, but can leak out and be toxic when disposed of improperly. With Americans purchasing 3 billion dry-cell batteries each year, it’s helpful and necessary to have the knowledge to know what to do with those batteries when they go out.
We’re here to take away shame in throwing batteries away, because some are okay to toss, but others are definitely not. By the end of this short guide, you will know exactly how to safely dispose and recycle any kind of battery.
Why are you not supposed to throw away batteries?
Recycling certain kinds of batteries keeps resources recirculating and heavy metals out of landfills, and therefore the air we breathe and the water we drink. When incinerated at the landfill, or left to sit, the heavy metals that make up batteries can be released into the air or leak out into the groundwater surrounding the area we live in.
Beyond just being a participant of this good, green earth, safely disposing batteries can help you avoid fines and risks to your and your family’s lives.
In several US states, it is against the law to throw away batteries or cell phones in with household trash. Check your local state laws if you are curious about this.
Even though you might call batteries that are used up “dead,” that doesn’t mean that they are lifeless. Some batteries have the potential to ignite a fire if not disposed of the right way. It could be very scary and dangerous if your trash were to suddenly catch on fire.
Not to worry, we will begin to cover the basics now.
Types of batteries
Let’s review what kinds of batteries you might run into in your daily life.
These batteries are used for common household electronics and come in three different varieties:
- Alkaline and zinc-carbon batteries (AA, AAA)
- 9-volt batteries (C and D)
- Button-cell batteries
Rechargeable batteries typically contain lithium-ion or lead. These batteries include:
- Car, boat, or other small vehicle batteries
- Cell phone, laptop, or digital camera batteries
- Industrial batteries (like the kind used for phone lines and building alarm systems)
AA, AAA, and 9-volt are safe to toss but can be recycled
If you must throw these away, AA, AAA, and 9-volt batteries are safe to go in the trash, except in the state of California, where it is against the law.
Because they could still have some power in them, place them in a plastic container or cardboard box before mixing with other trash. It’s also best to tape the ports of 9 volt batteries off before tossing.
If you live in California, or just want to recycle these batteries, they can be recycled (we will cover where to recycle them below).
Everything else should be recycled
All rechargeable batteries, like the one in your computer or smartphone, should not be trashed and should be recycled.
Button-cell type batteries should be recycled because the materials inside these are particularly valuable and reusable. They also contain materials like mercury, silver, lithium, and other heavy metals that are not great for the environment if left for the landfill.
Lead-based batteries, like the ones used to power cars and industrial equipment, should definitely not be thrown away.
Places that accept used batteries
Now that you’ve decided not to throw batteries away in the trash and recycle them instead, the next step is finding out where to take them. We’ve looked all that up for you for your convenience.
Local waste agency
Usually, your local city waste service company or landfill will have a specific day of the year where they collect batteries from the community. Check their website for details.
Nowadays, vehicle batteries are made of over half already-recycled materials. It’s become standard practice for most automotive shops to take used or broken car batteries for recycling. This is probably the easiest way to recycle these types of batteries.
Car Battery Store
The place where you bought your vehicle battery, or where you go to buy a new one, will always take your old battery for recycling.
Hardware or office supply store
Check your local hardware or office supply franchise for super-simple battery recycling drop off. Right now, these stores have recycling bins (usually supplied by the company Call2Recycle) for all kinds of small batteries:
- Best Buy
- Home Depot
- Radio Shack
- Office Depot
Some of these stores may even accept small electronics for recycling, like cell phones, digital cameras, and laptops.
A note about battery safety
Never, ever, ever open any kind of battery yourself. Like we mentioned before, batteries are considered safe even though they have heavy metals inside of them. The metals enclosed are protected from direct contact with your skin. If anything is leaking out, do not touch it!
If it is an alkaline battery that’s corroded, you can safely clean it (with protective gloves) with vinegar or lemon juice on a cotton swab. Any other battery, though, should be handled with much care, placed in a container, and recycled immediately.
Now, you have no more shame in your battery regimine. You know which batteries are safe to toss in the trash, which need to be recycled, and where to take them. Thanks ahead of time for helping our planet by recycling your batteries! It’s a baby step, but not an insignificant one, toward sustainability and a happy planet.
- Why are you not supposed to throw away batteries?
- Types of batteries
- AA, AAA, and 9-volt are safe to toss but can be recycled
- Everything else should be recycled
- Places that accept used batteries
- A note about battery safety