- Collect all used batteries until you can bring them to a special recycling collection site.
- Ordinary single-use alkaline and carbon-zinc batteries are considered non-hazardous and safe to place in the trash.
- In some states, it may be illegal to put any batteries in the trash or recycling bin.
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With so many batteries powering the gadgets in our homes and pockets, the question that eventually comes around is what to do when those batteries run out of juice?
While it may be tempting to toss dead batteries into the trash, doing so can have repercussions for your health and the environment, says Jason Gates, CEO of Compology, a technology company focused on building sustainable waste and recycling systems.
According to the California Department of Resources Recycling, almost 4 billion disposable batteries get shipped to the US every year. A majority of them end up in landfills, says Gates, adding “once batteries enter a landfill, they can rust and decay over time, allowing heavy metals from inside to leak out into the soil and enter our water supply.”
Beyond the environmental impact, improperly disposed of batteries pose a safety hazard. Some types, particularly lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, can cause fires during transport or at recycling centers.
To dispose of batteries safely, you’ll need to plan ahead and keep them stored safely until you can transport them to a proper recycling facility. Here’s everything you need to know.
Disposing of single-use batteries
When it comes to getting rid of single-use batteries, the type of battery makes a difference.
Common everyday alkaline batteries — including AAs, Ds, 9-volts, and others — are deemed safe to be thrown away in household trash. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Gates still advises to recycle batteries whenever possible.
All other non-rechargeable batteries, including lithium single-use batteries, as well as button cell watch batteries, contain hazardous heavy metals and toxic chemicals, and cannot be disposed of in ordinary trash or your curbside recycling program.
The best way to dispose of used single-use batteries is to collect them in a bin until you’re ready to take them to a proper disposal facility. For extra precaution, tape the terminal ends of the batteries, and store them in a plastic or cardboard container.
All rechargeable batteries should be recycled
In most states in the US, it is illegal to throw away rechargeable batteries in the trash or curbside recycling bin. And while rechargeable batteries are recyclable, they must be taken to a separate recycling center or collection point that can take them.
In general, using rechargeable batteries over single-use disposable batteries reduces waste, making them a more economical and environmentally friendly choice.
Common rechargeable batteries include:
Once they reach the end of their life, store used rechargeable batteries in a container until you can take them to a battery recycling center or drop-off point. It’s worth noting that certain retailers accept only some types of batteries, so it’s a good idea to check before you go.
How to find battery disposal resources near you
To recycle batteries, you will need to bring them to a battery recycling center or hazardous waste collection in your town. Some retailers also offer battery takeback services.
The first step you can take is to check your city’s official website for more information on local policies. From there, you should be able to find battery drop-off points in schools, public libraries, or other municipal buildings.
Properly disposing of batteries is important for human health and safety. Sticking any old battery in the trash may pose a fire risk or cause environmental harm. The best way to recycle or dispose of batteries is to contact your city to find out about available battery disposal policies or recycling programs.