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Because You Asked

Can Batteries Be Recycled?

By Recyclebank |

Pause before you toss batteries in the trash — you might be able to recycle them.


Dear Recyclebank,

Can I recycle old batteries?

-Kristen L., Allentown, PA

Dear Kristen,

Technically, most batteries you run across are recyclable. But keep in mind that disposal options are different depending on the battery type.

Alkaline batteries (single-use batteries) are your archetypical batteries that power everything from remote controls to kids’ toys. They come in different sizes, like AA or AAA, and once they run out of power, they have to be replaced. These days, single-use batteries no longer contain mercury and are considered so benign that many cities advise residents to throw them in the trash (although it is illegal for California residents to throw any kind of battery in the trash).

Unfortunately, there are very few alkaline battery recycling programs. Some cities do accept alkaline batteries for disposal through household hazardous waste programs. Check with your local public works department to see if there is a year-round drop-off location for household hazardous waste, or if your community holds collection events throughout the year. Another option is to recycle them through a mail-in program.

Rechargeable batteries, the ones that look just like alkaline batteries, can be used over and over again before permanently losing their charge. Common kinds include nickel-cadmium (NiCd) and nickel metal hydride (NiMH). They are a more sustainable option than single-use batteries for the obvious reason that they can be reused many times before disposing of them. There is one environmental caveat: their rechargeable properties come from heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and nickel. That means they pose a serious environmental contamination threat if not properly disposed of.

Rechargeable batteries should never be put in the trash (in fact, it’s illegal to do so in many states), where they will eventually end up in a landfill, leaking heavy metals into the soil and groundwater. Fortunately, the potential harm is easily thwarted by recycling. Call2Recycle, a national battery collection program funded by battery manufacturers, has placed drop-boxes in more than 30,000 locations in North America. That makes recycling as easy as dropping them off the next time you’re out shopping.

SOURCES
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Call2Recycle

What kind of batteries do you use, and how do you dispose of them responsibly? Tell us in the comments below.

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  • Marie W. 4 months ago
    Before we recycle our batteries (Lowes, Home Depot, Batteries Plus) we get every ounce of "juice" out as possible. This is our process....

    Use batteries for their intended use (camera, flashlight, cordless tools cordless phone, etc.). Bascically, anything that has to have a "new" battery.

    Then we disassemble battery packs (AA, AAA, C, etc)

    We then use the batteries in remote controls, clocks, window candles, etc. Basically, anything that doesn't require a fully charged battery to function properly. You will be surprised how many things don't need a "new fully charged battery". In fact batteries that won't work in a remote control will sometimes run a clock. And if you have LED window candles or lights they will completely use a battery to the end of its life.

    In fact I recycle my neighbors batteries and I have NOT purchased new batteries in about five years with the exception of 9 volt batteries for fire alarms. If your old school use the old 9 volts in bedside alarm clocks.
  • William J. 2 years ago
    Many rechargeable devices have batteries hard-wired right into them (think shavers, some cordless tools). These should also be disposed of properly, and not sent to the trash. The older the device, the more likely the batteries are the more harmful Nickle-Cadmium type.
  • Dolores A. 2 years ago
    What should I do with a power pack? Contains 4 batteries probably AA.
    • Jenn M. 2 years ago
      Although this is an older post, if the "power pack" is from a phone or some other rechargeable device, then I would say they are Nicd and recyclable. Home depot and Best Buy had collection bins at front of store.
  • Cathy T. 3 years ago
    Really helpful clarification. Things have changed over the years, so it's hard to know what to do.
  • George J. 3 years ago
    Are there locations to discard batteries in Suffolk?
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