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If you are having a difficult time finding out what to do with used batteries and where you can take them to be recycled or safely treated and disposed, then you should find a solution here on this page. Whether you have a AAA, AA, C, D, watch, button, hearing aid or car battery, there is a solution. Use the table of contents to jump ahead to the summary table if you are not interested in the background information.
People are using more and more household batteries. The average person owns about two button batteries, ten normal (A, AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, etc.) batteries, and throws out about eight household batteries per year. About three billion batteries are sold annually in the U.S. averaging about 32 per family or ten per person. A battery is an electrochemical device with the ability to convert chemical energy to electrical energy to provide power to electronic devices. Batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, which can contaminate the environment when batteries are improperly disposed of. When incinerated, certain metals might be released into the air or can concentrate in the ash produced by the combustion process.
Batteries may produce the following potential problems or hazards:
In landfills, heavy metals have the potential to leach slowly into soil, groundwater or surface water. Dry cell batteries contribute about 88 percent of the total mercury and 50 percent of the cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream. In the past, batteries accounted for nearly half of the mercury used in the United States and over half of the mercury and cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream. When burned, some heavy metals such as mercury may vaporize and escape into the air, and cadmium and lead may end up in the ash.
This may change now that California has mandated recycling for "dry cell" batteries.
Many states have regulations in place requiring some form of battery recycling. California mandates recycling for almost all battery types.
The U.S. Congress passed the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act in 1996 to make it easier for rechargeable battery and product manufacturers to collect and recycle Ni-CD batteries and certain small sealed lead-acid batteries. For these regulated batteries, the act requires the following:
Nearly 90 percent of all lead-acid batteries are recycled. Almost any retailer that sells lead-acid batteries collects used batteries for recycling, as required by most state laws. Reclaimers crush batteries into nickel-sized pieces and separate the plastic components. They send the plastic to a reprocessor for manufacture into new plastic products and deliver purified lead to battery manufacturers and other industries. A typical lead-acid battery contains 60 to 80 percent recycled lead and plastic.
Gel cells and sealed lead-acid batteries are commonly used to power industrial equipment, emergency lighting, and alarm systems. The same recycling process applies as with automotive batteries. An automotive store or a local waste agency may accept the batteries for recycling.
Dry-cell batteries include alkaline and carbon zinc (9-volt, D, C, AA, AAA), mercuric-oxide (button, some cylindrical and rectangular), silver-oxide and zinc-air (button), and lithium (9-volt, C, AA, coin, button, rechargeable). On average, each person in the United States discards eight dry-cell batteries per year.
Primary batteries include alkaline/manganese, carbon-zinc, mercuric-oxide, zinc-air, silver-oxide, and other types of button batteries. Secondary batteries (rechargeable) include lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, and potentially nickel-hydrogen.
|Typical Types of Household Batteries|
|Alkaline*||Cassettes players, radios, appliances|
|Carbon-zinc||Flashlights, toys, etc.|
|Lithium||Cameras, calculators, watches, computers, etc.|
|Mercury||Hearing aids, pacemakers, cameras, calculators, watches, etc.|
|Silver||Hearing aids, watches, cameras, calculators|
|Zinc||Hearing aids, pagers|
|Nickel-cadmium||Cameras, rechargeable appliances such as portable power tools, hand held vacuums, etc.|
|Small sealed lead-acid||Camcorders, computers, portable radios and tape players, cellular phones, lawn mower starters, etc.|
|*Some rechargeable alkaline batteries are available, but they are pretty rare.|
Recycling and Disposal
Mercuric-oxide batteries are being gradually replaced by new technology such as silver-oxide and zinc-air button batteries that contain less mercury.
Nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries are being researched. Alternatives such as cadmium free nickel and nickel-hydride system are being researched, but nickel-cadmium are unlikely to be totally replaced. Nickel-cadmium batteries can be reprocessed to reclaim the nickel. However, currently approximately 80 percent of all nickel-cadmium batteries are permanently sealed in appliances. Changing regulations may result in easier access to the nickel-cadmium batteries for recycling.
To reduce waste, start with prevention. Starting with prevention creates less or no leftover waste to become potentially hazardous waste. The following are steps to take to prevent household battery waste.
The use of rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries can reduce the number of batteries entering the waste stream, but may increase the amount of heavy metals entering the waste stream unless they are more effectively recycled. As of 1992, the percentage of cadmium in nickel-cadmium batteries was higher than the percentage of mercury in alkaline batteries, so substitution might only replace one heavy metal for another, and rechargeable batteries do use energy resources in recharging.
Rechargeable alkaline batteries are available along with rechargers.
Recycling of non rechargeable batteries is becoming more commonplace, but it can still be a challenge to find a local drop-off location. Recycling used RECHARGEABLE household batteries is now possible! The battery manufacturers have funded a joint recycling center. To find a center near you that will take them, click here! (in the US or Canada))( Which types do they take? Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH), Lithium Ion (Li-ion), and Small Sealed Lead* (Pb) rechargeable batteries are commonly found in cordless power tools, cellular and cordless phones, laptop computers, digital cameras, two-way radios, camcorders and remote control toys.
Note that California is a bit of a special case. California regulations require recycling for more types of batteries than other states. See this page for detailed information about how and where to recycle batteries in California.
For more information about the program and the sponsors, click on Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation And if you are looking for companies that can recycle batteries from businesses and governments, see this page.
Take the rechargeable batteries to any of the participating retailers. In the U.S.: Alltel, Batteries Plus, Best Buy, Black & Decker, Cingular Wireless, The Home Depot, Milwaukee Electric Tool, Orchard Supply, Porter Cable Service Center, RadioShack, Remington Product Company, Sears, Staples, Target, US Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and Wal-Mart. And in Canada: Battery Plus, Bell Mobility, Canadian Tire, FIDO/Microcell, Future Shop, The Home Depot, Home Hardware, London Drugs, Makita Factory Service Centers, Personal Edge/Centre du Rasoir, RadioShack Canada, Revy, Sasktel, Sears, The Sony Store, Telus Mobility and Zellers.
Use the RBRC collection site locator, or call the consumer helpline, 1-800-8-BATTERY, to find the retail collection site nearest you.
Non-rechargeable (typically "alkaline batteries") still don't have a recycler and general just must be disposed in the trash. If you have large quantities or are a business, talk with your permitted sanitary landfill operator (otherwise known as "sanitation services", the "dump" or "landfill"). Waste batteries should not be burned because of the metals, and they could explode. When burned, some heavy metals such as mercury may vaporize and escape into the air, and cadmium and lead may end up in the ash.
Click here for one more place to try to find a recycling location near you if none of the options above were suitable.
|Contact your local or county health department, waste disposal operator, extension educator, recycling facility, call the EPA Hotline and ask for a copy of the publication: "Used Dry Cell Batteries" - phone (800) 424-9346. This publication does not address nonhousehold waste battery sources such as medical, business, etc.|
Check with your local solid waste management district (listed under County Government in your phone book) for any outlets for household battery recycling. See if your local jeweler, pharmacy or battery retailer will accept button batteries for recycling. Ohio EPA keeps a list of battery recycling and disposal companies on file; however, these companies are usually set up to serve industrial or municipal customers with bulk amounts of batteries rather than individuals.
Examples of Use
|Coppertop, Alkaline||AAA, AA, C, D, 6V, 9V||Flashlights, calculators, toys, clocks, smoke alarms, remote controls||These batteries are classified by the federal government as non-hazardous waste.||Place in the trash (normal municipal waste). Exceptions: California which requires non-households to dispose of these batteries in accordance with the California Universal Waste Rules.|
|Button||Mercuric Oxide, Silver Oxide, Lithium, Alkaline, Zinc-Air||Sizes vary||Watches, hearing aids, toys, greeting cards, remote controls||hazardous waste||Bring to a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Site|
|Carbon Zinc||"Classic", Heavy Duty, General Purpose, All Purpose, Power Cell||AAA, AA, C, D
|Flashlights, calculators, toys, clocks, smoke alarms, remote controls, transistor radios, garage door openers||These batteries are classified by the federal government as non-hazardous waste.||Place in the trash (normal municipal waste). Exceptions: California - requires non-households to dispose of these batteries in accordance with the California Universal Waste Rules. Also, Minnesota (Hennipen County only) requires these batteries be disposed as a hazardous waste.|
|Lithium / Lithium Ion||Usually has "lithium" label on the battery||3V, 6V, 3V button||Cameras, calculators, computer memory back-up, tennis shoes||These batteries are classified by the federal government as non-hazardous waste||They can be recycled! To find a center near you that will take them, click here!|
|Nickel-Cadmium (Rechargeable)||Either unlabeled or labeled "Ni-Cd"||AAA, AA, C, D, 6V, 9V||Flashlights, toys, cellular phones, power tools, computer packs||hazardous waste||To find a center near you that will take them, click here! or Bring to a Household HazardousWaste Collection Site|
|Nickel Metal Hydride (Rechargeable)||Either unlabeled or labeled "Ni-Li" or "Ni-Hydride)||AAA, AA, C, D, 6V, 9V||Flashlights, toys, cellular phones, power tools, computer packs||non-hazardous waste - except in California, which requires non-households to dispose of these batteries in accordance with the California Universal Waste Rules.||Safe for disposal in the normal municipal waste stream. These batteries are also acceptable for recycling by the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation's (RBRC) Battery Recycling Program.|
|Reusable Alkaline Manganese (Rechargeable)||Renewal||AAA, AA, C, D||Flashlights, calculators, toys, clocks, radios, remote controls||Place in the trash|
|Sealed Lead Acid (Rechargeable)
|"Gel," VRB, AGM, Cyclone, El Power, Dynasty, Gates, Lithonia, Saft, Panasonic, Yuasa||Multiples of 2 Volts: 2V, 6V, 12V||Video cameras, power tools, wheelchairs, ATV's, metal detectors, clocks, cameras||hazardous waste||To find a center near you that will take them, click here! Bring to a Household HazardousWaste Collection Site|
|Lead Acid Vehicle Batteries||Autozone, Sears Die Hard, Yuasa||12V, 6V||Cars, trucks, motorcycles||hazardous waste||Take back to place of purchase
Most places that sell car batteries will also accept them for recycling. There may be a fee for this service.
metal recycler may pay you for your car battery. Look in the yellow pages under "Recycling Centers" for a list of recyclers.
|Silver Oxide||Panasonic Silver Oxide||Sizes vary||Watches, hearing aids, toys, greeting cards, remote controls||hazardous waste||Non-Consumers must dispose of these batteries in full compliance
with the hazardous waste rules. Consumers are covered by the Household exemption
under RCRA which
allows for these batteries to be disposed of into the municipal waste
stream. These batteries are also acceptable for
recycling by the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation's (RBRC) Battery Recycling Program. |
Keep in mind that the battery manufacturers have funded the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation's (RBRC) Battery Recycling Program to find a drop off location for batteries nearest you, so that you wouldn't need to call the manufacturers directly. To find a location, click to visit the RBRC homepage or call 1-800-8-BATTERY.
|Manufacturer (click the name for their website)||Phone number||Email address or contact form|
|Panasonic||1-800-211-PANA (7262)||Panasonic contact form|
|Duracell||Duracell contact form|
|Eveready Energizer (i.e., the Energizer Bunny)|