There is a lot of confusion about how to dispose of batteries. In Europe and Canada, there's been pushback from battery manufacturers over this issue due to the potential environmental harm. You can throw single-use batteries in your regular trash in the United States. However, some batteries may contain harmful chemicals and metals, which unfortunately makes them dangerous. For example, a button-cell battery in watches or hearing aids should be treated like a rechargeable or lithium battery. These are unique instances that require proper disposal.
The federal government has deemed single-use, alkaline batteries non-hazardous, as they are now made of common metals. These would be the AA, AAA and 9-volt variety batteries that you can purchase at any store. These types of batteries may be disposed of in the regular trash in every state of the US, except for California. It is still illegal to throw any battery away in California.
However, no states allow batteries to be put into recycling bins. Instead, special recycling facilities will take your batteries and dispose of them properly if you wish to recycle them. Often there can be a small fee associated with recycling batteries, but not always.
Can You Throw Lithium Batteries in the Trash?
Not all batteries are created equal. Some contain toxic chemicals that can leak when thrown in the trash, which is highly harmful to the ecosystem, so it's essential to separate them out and dispose of them properly. Typically batteries found in cell phones, power tools, mobility devices and hospital equipment, rechargeable batteries of any sort, e-cigarette batteries and electronics are all examples of hazardous waste. These all contain chemicals and metals that are not fit for landfills and can cause harm to the environment. Always remember:
- Check for the word "lithium." Lithium batteries cannot be thrown into regular garbage.
- Do not put button-cell or coin batteries into household trash or municipal recycling.
- Any rechargeable batteries or ones associated with electronics, like computers, cell phones, vaping items and power tools, must be disposed of at a special facility.
- Nickel-Zinc, Nickel Metal Hydride and Nickel Cadmium also must be taken to a battery recycling center to dispose of these types properly.
- Any durable medical equipment (DME) or healthcare facility equipment must be taken to a special facility.
- Contact your local recycling center to find out if they accept used batteries. Many will collect them at no charge, or others may require a small fee per load.
It varies case by case, but finding a battery recycling center near you is always best. You should contact an expert or the company you purchased from to see if your specific battery may require a special dropoff or recycling process. Although recycling is always the preferred method of disposal, many of these types contain unique compounds that you cannot recycle.
Find a Battery Recycling Center Near You
Batteries adhere to a particular treatment when disposed of or recycled. This is to protect workers and also the environment from the harmful chemicals that may be inside them. The goal is to keep these chemicals from dead batteries or other electronic devices with lithium-ion batteries from leaking into the earth. If they leak, they could cause harm to the living things that come into contact with the area around it. They may also harm our waterways if they end up in sewer systems or landfills. These harsh chemicals can contaminate rivers, lakes and drain-off systems if batteries should end up in them. If you are unsure where to go, take a minute to research and look up local battery-recycling programs. You may be surprised to find there are more places than you thought to help with disposal.
Car Batteries Must Be Handled By Professionals
Car batteries are not fit to end up in landfills. Lead and acid are used to retain a charge in a car battery, which poses an extreme threat to the environment. Most mechanics and auto part stores have the necessary drop-off and recycling facilities to take care of your car batteries. The EPA estimates that around 98% of lead and acid batteries in automobiles are currently being recycled properly. Keeping these numbers up is critical and allowing the professionals to take care of your car battery.
Safety Always Comes Before Sustainability
Batteries may not be conveniently recyclable like glass and plastic, but that doesn't mean there aren't dozens of organizations that won't take your dead batteries. In addition, some companies may have the proper resources to recycle, destroy or even recondition them in an eco-friendly and safe way.
- Many local solid waste districts host events in your neighborhood to collect used batteries.
- Some battery manufacturers and recycling facilities have mail-in programs to assist you.
- Home Depot and other hardware stores run battery recycling programs where you can drop them off at no cost to you.
If you do decide to throw out regular alkaline batteries, it's also best to test and ensure they're actually dead first. As long as there's no leakage from the battery and they still appear intact, many organizations are happy to accept your battery donations.