Batteries have become a routine part of our modern lives. But despite their many uses, it’s not always clear what to do with them when they get used up or stop holding charge.
In general, you cannot dispose of batteries that easily. Burning them can release toxic gases into the atmosphere and throwing them in landfills can pollute the soil and groundwater. So now the real question is how can a person properly dispose of batteries without polluting the environment?
The most viable way to dispose of batteries is to recycle them when you no longer need them, they lose their charge or can’t be recharged anymore. Alkaline batteries can technically be thrown in the trash but you should always recycle them if you have the option.
This article is designed to inform you about battery disposal. We are going to look at the different types of batteries and how to dispose of each one of them properly. So buckle up and prepare to get enlightened because this is guaranteed to be an insightful read for you!
How to Properly Dispose of Batteries
Batteries can pose a challenge to people and organizations who are environmentally conscious and want to dispose of them properly. It’s understandable because batteries are a little bit harder to get rid of than say plastic and other types of waste. This means that most people just resort to throwing them out without caring one bit about the implications that this could have one the environment as well as on humans and other animals.
To put things in perspective, consider this. Batteries are majorly electrochemical. This means that they convert the substances within them into electrical energy.
Most of them contain heavy metals such as lead, mercury, nickel, cadmium as well as toxic and corrosive acids. These materials can seep into water and soil. So if batteries are not disposed of properly, they can greatly contaminate the environment, damage fragile ecosystems or even the toxic materials can make their way into the food chain.
What hazardous chemicals are in batteries?
Batteries contain one or more of the following: cadmium, lead, zinc, manganese, nickel, silver, mercury, lithium, and acids. When you improperly dispose of batteries, these chemicals escape the casing of the battery and can contaminate soil and groundwater.
Also, batteries can be a fire hazard. If batteries aren’t disposed of properly they can short circuit, overheat and cause a fire.
So how can we properly dispose of them?
Before we can get into it, we, first of all, should discuss the different types of batteries. There are two major types of batteries and these are:
- Rechargeable or secondary batteries
- Non-rechargeable or Primary batteries
Rechargeable batteries can be recharged and reused because they retain their cell potential. They can therefore be used for long before they lose their power. Non-rechargeable batteries on the other hand can only be used once. They cannot be recharged and be used again later.
So with all this in mind, let’s dive into how to properly dispose of each of these types of batteries.
Need more batteries? These are the most popular batteries on Amazon.
How to Properly Dispose of Rechargeable Batteries
Rechargeable batteries come in many forms and sizes and are used across a wide variety of products from cell phones, to cars, to laptops, and tablets. In the US, the demand for rechargeable batteries is growing twice as fast as the demand for non-rechargeable ones. So one can only wonder where all these are going to end up once they are no longer usable.
Owing to their rechargeable nature, they are usually considered a bit eco-friendly. The issue however comes when they lose their recharging capability and makes it necessary to dispose of them.
Disposing of them can pose a huge risk to the environment. Rechargeable batteries have toxic substances and chemicals in them. For this reason, they should never be carelessly discarded or thrown in landfills. It’s also worth noting that disposing of rechargeable batteries in the garbage is illegal in most places.
So how can a person dispose of these rechargeable batteries?
Truthfully speaking, it isn’t as hard as it may seem. Some of the good news about these rechargeable batteries is that they actually have some materials in them that can be recycled and re-used. 90% of the materials used in rechargeable batteries can be re-used. Some of these materials that can be recovered for re-use include magnetic alloys and stainless steel.
By doing this, significant amounts of toxic waste that would otherwise end up in the environment are reused.
To properly dispose of rechargeable batteries, we need to find out the different types of rechargeable batteries. They include:
- Lead-acid batteries
- Nickel-Cadmium batteries
- Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries
- Lithium-ion batteries
- Lithium-ion Polymer batteries.
So let’s discuss how one can dispose of each of these types of rechargeable batteries.
What types of hazards are in car batteries?
A typical car battery contains 18 pounds of lead and 1 pound of sulfuric acid.
How to Properly Dispose of Lead-Acid Batteries
Have you ever wondered where your old car battery goes when you replace it? Most of the time, it gets recycled. Lead-acid batteries are used in boats, buses, and also golf carts. They are also used by utility companies to prevent power outages.
Lead-acid batteries are hazardous waste. For this reason, they cannot be disposed of in incinerators and landfills because they are too toxic. These toxic substances can leak into the environment and pollute it.
If you are wondering what to do with an old lead-acid battery that you no longer use, we have the scoop for you. You should have it recycled. There are a few ways you can properly dispose of it. These include:
- You can take the battery to lead-acid retailers. They can take the old one off your hands because in most states the law requires them to do so for recycling. In most cases, the retailer who sold you the battery will do this for you.
- Some car-supply sellers also offer recycling programs for lead-acid batteries. So you could look-up any that are in your location and drop your old battery off.
- Most towns also have hazardous waste drop-off points that are free. So you can drop off your battery at these points and they will be picked up for recycling.
- Some locations also accept lead-acid batteries. You can use websites like Earth911 or Call2Recycle to find drop-off points where you can leave your old batteries for recycling.
- Some scrap metal dealers also take old batteries for recycling so you could try them out.
- You can also take the battery to a local municipal waste department or county recycling center who will then take the appropriate steps to recycle it.
Before dropping the battery off at any of these locations, place it in a leak-proof and sturdy container.
True to their name, lead-acid batteries contain insane amounts of lead and sulfuric acid. They also have other chemicals, metal, and plastic. Fortunately, most of these components can be recycled and reused.
During recycling, lead is molten into ingots and sent to battery companies which can use the lead to manufacture new batteries.
The sulfuric acid in the batteries can be converted to sodium sulfate which is used to manufacture detergents, textiles, or glass. It can also be neutralized to water which is then cleaned and treated in wastewater treatment facilities.
The plastic can also be melted and molded into different products.
So as you can see, lead-acid batteries can be recycled and reused. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 80% of lead and plastic in lead-acid batteries are recycled for reuse.
It’s therefore worth following the recommendations mentioned above to ensure you dispose of lead-acid batteries in the right way.
How many batteries are sold in the U.S. every year?
3.1 billion batteries are sold in America every year.
How to Properly Dispose of Nickel-Cadmium Batteries
You’ve probably come across Nickel-Cadmium batteries. They are used to power cellular and cordless phones, power tools, cameras, and other portable household appliances. They are usually made up of components such as Nickel, Cadmium, and plastic.
They can generally be used for a long time. The concern arises after their useful lives have ended and as such one desires to dispose of them.
To be frank, tossing Ni-Cad batteries in the trash may not be the best idea. This is because they are considered highly hazardous waste and environmental pollutants. Both of the elements, Nickel and Cadmium, can have extremely negative effects on human health as well as on the environment.
For one thing, Cadmium is a hazardous heavy metal that has been linked directly to human conditions such as cancer, birth defects, just to mention but a few. Nickel has also been linked to chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function, and lung cancer.
These elements can also have disparaging effects on the environment. They can pollute water and soil and lead to the destruction of ecosystems.
For these reasons, proper disposal of Ni-Cad batteries is a must. Extreme care should be taken when disposing them of. This means that you just can’t simply throw them in the trash once they are no longer usable.
Ni-Cad batteries should never end up in landfills. This is because they are extremely toxic. They also should not be incinerated because this can release toxic gases into the atmosphere.
There is good news, however. Ni-Cad batteries are 100% recyclable. The elements used to make Ni-Cad batteries can be recycled for re-use in recycling facilities.
So if you were wondering how to dispose of your Ni-Cad batteries, we have you covered. Here are some tips on how you can properly dispose of Nickel-Cadmium batteries:
- You can hire a recycling firm such as Cleanlites recycling to take care of recycling the batteries for you. You can alternatively search for any other recycling companies in your area and hire them at a small fee.
- You can also drop-off the batteries at your local waste management center or county recycling center.
- You could also try returning them to the retailers you bought them from. Most of them are legally required to take them back for recycling.
- Some manufacturers of Ni-Cad batteries also take them back for recycling. They usually have collection programs in place for this purpose. You could try contacting them to find out the procedure of dropping-off your old Ni-Cad batteries.
- You can also dispose of your old Ni-Cad batteries at a hazardous waste collection center near you.
So instead of tossing your old NI-Cad batteries away, try any of the above guidelines to ensure they are recycled and don’t end up polluting the environment.
How to Properly Dispose of Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries
Nickel- Metal Hydride batteries do not differ so much from Ni-Cad batteries. The only difference is in the elements that are used to make them. Ni-MH batteries are used in digital cameras, cell phones, electric cars, and rechargeable power tools.
Unlike Ni-Cad batteries, Ni-MH batteries aren’t that complicated to dispose of. This is because they are considered semi-hazardous.
Because of this, in most cases where there are no disposal or recycling services available, most people usually just discard them with other household waste in the trash. This is only where the batteries are in small quantities.
When in large quantities, Nickel can be dangerous to human and animal health. It’s carcinogenic and can cause cancer, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, among other conditions.
So even though Ni-MH batteries are less toxic than Ni-Cad batteries, care should still be taken when disposing of them. This is because in large quantities they can still pollute the air, soil, and waterways to devastating effect. For this reason, most states have banned disposing of Ni-MH batteries in landfills.
The good news is that there are numerous recycling resources for Ni-MH batteries. Ni-MH contains some valuable metallic components which can be useful from an economic point of view. So there are lots of dedicated recycling resources for this purpose.
So here are a few ways you can dispose of your Ni-MH batteries properly.
You could drop off your Ni-MH batteries at drop off points for your county solid waste management department and they’ll take steps to recycle them.
Some organizations like Call2Recycle have measures to receive and recycle rechargeable batteries. You can contact them to find a location near you.
When transporting these batteries, take precautions to ensure they don’t cause a fire when they come into contact with each other. Put some tape over the positive and keep the metal parts from rubbing against each other.
How to Properly Dispose of Lithium-ion Batteries
Lithium-ion batteries are pretty great! They’re found in lots of electronic devices like smartphones and laptops. They’re a pretty sweet piece of technology, but they however have a tendency to catch fire easily.
Unlike the name suggests, Li-ion batteries are actually made up of little lithium. They mostly contain other metals like iron, cobalt, nickel, copper, and aluminum. Some of these can be pretty toxic to humans if released into the environment.
Disposing of Li-ion batteries can be difficult at times. It’s always advisable to never throw them in the garbage. This is because the batteries are pretty fragile and if a garbage compacter crushes the battery, a fire could easily start.
They burn at very high temperatures and the fire is hard to stop once it starts. So never throw your old Li-ion batteries in the recycling bin or trash.
So how can one dispose of old Li-ion batteries? Some of the materials found in Li-ion batteries can be recycled for reuse. So there are several organizations that can help you dispose of Li-ion batteries.
You can research for a local recycling center near you. If you are lucky enough to find one, you can drop off your batteries there and they will take care of recycling the batteries on your behalf.
- Some local electronic goods retailers in your area may also take your Li-ion batteries to recycle themselves. So you can give them a call to find out if they do.
- You can also contact the manufacturer of the Li-ion batteries and see if they have a collection program for them. If they do, they’ll take the batteries off your hands for recycling.
You also shouldn’t crush or puncture the batteries to prevent short-circuiting or leakage. If the batteries are already damaged, store them in insulated plastic bags. Always tape off exposed connectors and keep the Li-ion batteries away from flammable materials.
Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be rid of your Li-ion batteries in no time!
How to Properly Dispose of Lithium-Polymer Batteries
Lithium-Polymer batteries have taken the electric world by storm, with them being used in many consumer electronics devices. Commercially, they are also used to power radio-controlled aircraft and cars, as well as large scale model trains.
But one thing worth noting is that Li-Po batteries can actually be pretty dangerous if not handled correctly. They can cause fires and strong explosions. They have also been known to become bloated and puffed, and if they are punctured can burst into flames.
It should therefore come as no surprise that disposing of them is a little bit trickier than usual. Trust me, you don’t want one going off on you.
Luckily though, Li-Po batteries are a bit environmentally safer and friendlier than the other rechargeable batteries we’ve discussed earlier. The only issue about them however is the danger they pose to users.
If you charge, discharge, store, maintain, or handle an LI-Po battery improperly, the effects could be devastating. If they leak or catch fire, they can release toxic gases that are harmful to users.
Great care should therefore be taken when disposing of Li-Po batteries. The first thing to do before disposing of these batteries is to make sure that the voltage is at 0, and that no more charge can build up.
Li-Po batteries are safer when they have voltage in them. This is the home battery disposal method. Here is how you should do it:
- Put sand in a bucket, take it outside and place the Li-Po battery in the bucket.
- Connect a small lamp or LED to the battery to drain it completely. Leave it connected for 1-2 days until the LED stops glowing red.
- Once drained completely, cut the connectors off the battery and strip the wires.
- Proceed to join the red and black wires to create a short-circuit. This will prevent the buildup of voltage.
After doing this the Li-Po battery is stabilized and is no longer dangerous. Once this is done, it’s safe to throw it in the trash.
If you can’t safely discharge the batteries on your own, consider the following options.
- To dispose of Li-Po batteries you can enlist the help of a professional battery disposal service near you. They’ll be able to discharge and dispose of them.
- Some battery recycling centers can also help to dispose of Li-Po batteries so it’s worth giving them a call. This is highly recommended.
- Some electronic retailers in your area may also be willing to assist.
Great care should always be taken when disposing of rechargeable batteries. Follow the guidelines discussed above and all will be well.
How to Properly Dispose of Non-rechargeable Batteries
Non-rechargeable batteries cannot be recharged for reuse after they lose their power. When this happens they can only be disposed of. These batteries power most household items like flashlights, smoke alarms, remote controls, and watches.
Unlike rechargeable batteries, Non-rechargeable batteries are a little bit simple to dispose of. In the 1990s, you probably heard that you shouldn’t throw away AA, AAA, or other batteries. This is because in those days most of these batteries were made using harmful heavy metals like mercury, lead, calcium, cadmium, and nickel.
Nowadays, this is no longer the case. Manufacturers stopped using these materials to make batteries.
This makes non-rechargeable batteries a little less toxic. Non-rechargeable batteries are nowadays rather chemically benign. They only contain some corrosive chemicals which can be harmful to humans and animals.
Before we can talk about how to properly dispose of them, we need to find out the types of non-rechargeable batteries there are. They include:
- Alkaline batteries
- Zink carbon batteries
- Zinc chloride batteries
- Zinc-air batteries
Let’s discuss how to dispose of each of these batteries.
How to Properly Dispose of Alkaline Batteries
These batteries usually contain a composition of zinc, manganese dioxide, and the electrolyte potassium hydroxide. These are the usual AA, AAA, C, or D batteries that you use for remotes, toys, flashlights, clocks, and more. Most of us have encountered them at some point.
How many times have you hit the remote trying to make it work when the batteries are out? Many, right? When alkaline batteries lose their power, there isn’t anything you can do with them apart from throwing them out.
The truth is that disposing of alkaline batteries is quite simple. Because they no longer contain heavy metals, most experts agree that it’s safe to throw them in the trash. These batteries can safely be disposed of with regular household waste. It is however not recommended to put them in a recycling bin.
When you really think about it, recycling alkaline batteries isn’t the smartest choice. There are very few facilities (if any) that accept alkaline batteries for recycling. Why? Because it isn’t economical.
The amount of reusable materials in alkaline batteries including zinc, manganese, and steel is very minimal. It would be 10-12 times more expensive to recycle these batteries than most toxic wastes generated in the US. This beats the necessity to have them recycled.
So the only thing one can do is throw them in the trash bin. If this doesn’t sit well with you, you can stop buying them and instead consider buying rechargeable batteries. They are more expensive and require a little bit of extra care, but they do the job.
Never dispose of alkaline batteries by tossing them in the fire because they can explode.
How to Properly Dispose of Zinc Carbon Batteries
It is however true that some facilities commit to recycling these batteries. They are very few and at most times they are disinterested in recycling zinc-carbon batteries for reuse. So the only option that’s left is to throw them in the trash and hope that somebody will take care of disposing of them on your behalf.
All other types of non-rechargeable batteries can be disposed of in a similar manner as the one disused above. They are not hazardous and throwing them in the trash won’t harm anyone.
However, if you still insist on having them recycled, research for companies around your area who might be interested. It’s a long shot but it never hurts to try.
Preparing Your Batteries for Transportation or Home Collection
It obviously doesn’t make much sense to run to the recycling center or household hazardous waste facility every time that the battery in your remote dies. Take these precautions when you’re gathering old dead batteries at home and to make transporting them safer for the workers at the facility.
- For batteries 9V and smaller: Tape the contacts so that they can’t short out by touching conductive material (like other batteries) and keep them in a cardboard box or other non-metal container.
- For batteries larger than 9V: Wrap the entire battery in bubble wrap. This will cover the contacts and protect the outside of the battery from damage. You can still store them with other old batteries in that same non-metallic container.
- Make sure that you store all batteries in an area that makes it impossible for animals and children to access them!
Once you have enough batteries that it makes sense to make a trip to the household hazardous waste drop-off point, just bring the whole container of batteries to get recycled.
The bottom line is that to ensure environmental conservation, proper disposal of all types of batteries is essential. Where possible, batteries should be recycled for reuse to ensure they do not end up polluting the environment or causing human ailments.
So follow the tips in this guide and you’ll be actively bringing the world one step closer to environmental conservation.