How to Recycle Batteries: Your Main Options Explained

Even though a lot of our devices use chargers to function, we still rely on single-use batteries from time to time. So what are you supposed to do with them once they’ve reached the end of their lifecycle? Today we find out some dos and don’ts regarding battery use, as well as how to recycle batteries.

At this point in time, only the state of California has made it illegal to throw any kind of batteries in the trash. However, just because it’s not illegal in your state, it doesn’t mean you can’t dispose of batteries in a responsible manner. You can throw single-use alkaline batteries in your regular trash but we strongly encourage you to recycle them instead.

Thankfully, many counties and cities have started recycling programs that allow citizens to get rid of their single-use batteries safely. The local authorities partner with green organization to hold household hazardous waste collection events. If you want to participate in the next event in your area, make sure you visit your city and county website. At the same time, some cities have dedicated locations that accept materials all year round.

 

DOs and DON’Ts

Before your single-use batteries end up on the recycling belt, there are some good practices you can use to make sure you get the most from them. These general ‘DOs’ and ‘DON’Ts’ provide useful tips proper battery use and storage:

DO – Keep all batteries away from children and pets, particularly when it comes to the smaller sized batteries.

DON’T – Carry batteries loose in your pocket or purse. They may create a safety risk by contact with metal objects; they can also overheat, leak, or rupture.

DO – Use only the type and size of battery specified by the manufacturer for your devices.

DON’T – Try to recharge single-use (non-rechargeable) batteries. It can cause the batteries to leak or overheat.

DO – Store batteries in their original packaging until ready to use. Make sure you place them in a dry location and at normal room temperature.

DON’T – Store your batteries in a refrigerator. Despite what people might think, this does not ‘recharge’ your batteries, nor does it increase storage life or the batteries’ power.

Using and Storing Batteries

DO – Replace all batteries in your device at the same time. Insert batteries properly so the plus (+) and minus (–) terminals are aligned correctly.

DON’T – Leave batteries in a device you won’t use for several months. Switching off devices doesn’t always power them off completely; in time, this may cause the batteries inside to leak.

DO – Remove batteries from any equipment while said equipment is connected to household (AC) current.

DON’T – Throw large numbers of batteries in the trash. If you can, store them in a non-metal container until you can bring them to a collection program for used batteries in your area.

DO – If possible, recycle your batteries through recycling or collection programs. You can contact your city’s website for more information about the disposal options in your area.

DON’T – Remove the battery label, or dispose of in a fire, or take the battery apart. Any of these attempts may lead to chemical burns and/or rupture of the battery.

DON’T – Mix batteries of different brands, old and new batteries, or batteries of different types (for example alkaline batteries with heavy duty zinc chloride batteries) in the same device.

DON’T – Store batteries or battery-powered devices in hot places. In addition to reduced battery performance, extreme temperatures may also lead to leakage.

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How to Recycle Batteries

We encourage you to recycle your single-use batteries because they contain a number of materials that are recyclable. Your options include recycling them by dropping them off at a local facility, as well as participating in the many take back or mail-in programs available across the nation.

Office buildings can really benefit from recycling batteries through mail-in programs. If you work in an office, place several buckets around and encourage your colleagues to use them for battery disposal. Once they’re full, simply mail the buckets to the recycling location.

According to experts, one of the most important aspects of single-battery recycling is not disposing them in large numbers or in a group. Since used batteries are rarely completely dead, grouping live batteries together can bring them into contact with one another. The result is a safety risk that you should steer clear of.

Unfortunately, recycling processes for alkaline batteries that have proven cost-effective and environmentally safe are not yet universally available. However, your community might be one of those few which offer collection or recycling initiatives for alkaline batteries. To find out, contact your local government for disposal practices in your area.

Useful Tools

If you’re looking for collection locations for safe disposal of batteries, both Earth911 and Call2Recycle can help you with online resources. Visit the Earth911 website and check out their Recycling Locator. It can accurately find the nearest battery recycling center for all types of batteries. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code.

Meanwhile, Call2Recycle also offers resources for over 34,000 local recycling centers and drop-off locations in the U.S. However, the centers that accept rechargeable batteries – including national retailers such as The Home Depot, Best Buy, Lowe’s and Staples – might not accept single-use batteries. What you can do is call ahead and make sure you can drop off your used batteries.

Call2Recycle has the perfect answer to the common question, “How to recycle batteries?” Thanks to their ZIP code tool (also on their website), you can find one of their handy battery recycling locations. Energizer® has recycled almost 200,000 pounds of batteries through Call2Recycle alone, so seek them out!

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Is Recycling Single-use Batteries Cost-effective?

There has been debate about single-use batteries: It is or is it not cost effective to recycle them? Each battery contains a small amount of reusable material, such as manganese, zinc, and steel. At the same time, we also have the required technology to recycle single-use batteries in a cost-effective manner.

Your local solid waste department might instruct you to put alkaline batteries in with your regular trash. Mercury has been gradually phased out alkaline batteries, making them less of an issue when disposed in landfills. However, it doesn’t mean alkalines are not partly recyclable.

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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