Batteries power a variety of portable devices. Everything from cordless phones and laptops to cars and toys uses battery power. Eventually, a battery stops powering a device or fails to charge. That means it’s time to replace it.
Knowing how to dispose of batteries properly helps protect the environment. Whether they’re rechargeable AA batteries or single-use alkaline batteries, learn safe disposal. This guide offers tips on battery disposal and battery recycling.
Keep reading for more details about the different types of household batteries and how to dispose of them.
Single-Use vs. Rechargeable Batteries
There are two basic types of batteries in use: rechargeable and single-use or disposable ones.
Rechargeable batteries can be changed many times before they’re replaced. They’re found in cordless phones, smartphones, and digital cameras. Power tools and similar devices that drain energy are quickly used too.
Single-use batteries are found in alarm clocks, remotes, and other gadgets. They’re designed to be used as long as the cell makes electricity.
How to Dispose of Household Batteries?
Getting Rid of Single-Use Batteries
Single-use batteries, of any size, are some of the most common household batteries. Single-use batteries can be found throughout the home in a variety of sizes including AA, AAA, 9V, D-cell, and others.
These are the batteries inside your TV remotes, flashlights, children’s toys, and other small electronics. If the battery is not rechargeable, it falls into this category.
Can single-use batteries be thrown in the trash?
Yes, single-use batteries are now made of common metals deemed non-hazardous by the federal government and can be disposed of in your regular trash in all states except California, where it is illegal to throw away all types of batteries.
Prior to 1996, single-use batteries contained mercury and were treated as hazardous waste. One exception is a button cell battery found in a watch, which is hazardous and should be disposed of like a rechargeable battery.
Can single-use batteries be recycled?
Yes, it is possible to recycle single-use batteries, but there is a fee associated with recycling them in most cases.
How to recycle single-use batteries:
- Call your local solid waste district to find out if your community has a collection program or upcoming event.
- Search the area for recycling centers that accept single-use batteries using Earth911’s Recycling Search.
- Find a mail-in recycling program that accepts batteries. Most of these programs will sell you a container to store used batteries that can be mailed when filled. Battery Solutions and Call2Recycle both offer options for recycling alkaline batteries in the mail.
Pro Tip: You can reduce your need for disposing of single-use batteries by purchasing rechargeable batteries instead. These can be used more than 1,000 times and recycled at no cost to you.
Safely Removing a Car Battery
Whether your battery has lasted three years, five years, or even 10 or more years, it may be past its prime. An old battery doesn’t hold a charge as long, doesn’t operate effectively in extreme temperature conditions, and is prone to leakage. Before you replace your battery, however, you’ll need to safely remove it.
Here are some simple steps to removing your car battery:
How To Remove a Car Battery?
1. Safety First
First, you’ll need to wear gloves and protection. Old batteries may have a leak and coming in contact with battery acid can be dangerous.
2. Disconnect the Negative Cable
Disconnect the cable from the negative terminal of your battery. It should have a black or gray coating. You’ll need to use a wrench to loosen the nut on the terminal. Be sure your wrench doesn’t touch both terminals at once.
3. Disconnect the Positive Cable
Remove the cable from the positive terminal, which should have a red coating.
4. Inspect and Remove
Once the battery terminals are removed, nearly all batteries will have a hold-down device in the form of a strap or block at the bottom of the battery. That will also need to be removed. After this, check to see if your battery has a clip, strap, or other safety feature holding it in place.
After these are removed, check to ensure your battery is free from cracks, punctures or other surface damage that may cause a battery fluid leak. A leaking battery requires extreme caution. Battery acid can be irritating, cause burns and even cause long-term health issues.
How to Dispose of Rechargeable Batteries?
- Rechargeable batteries are also common in the home. You’ll find them in cellphones, digital cameras, power tools, laptops, and other more powerful electronics in your home.
- There are many different kinds of rechargeable batteries:
- Nickel metal hydride and nickel-cadmium batteries are found in electronics such as cordless power tools, digital cameras, two-way radios, and cordless phones.
- Lithium-ion batteries are found in most portable devices such as cellphones and laptops.
- Small sealed lead acid batteries are less common in homes and are found in emergency devices, emergency exit signs, security systems, mobility scooters, and other special-use items.
How to Dispose of Alkaline Batteries?
Alkaline batteries include AA, AAA, 9 volts, and D cells. Small batteries may run remote controls or flashlights. Larger batteries power smoke detectors, clocks, and wireless consumer devices. Even when the cells no longer run devices, the batteries can still produce current. They can be hazardous if discarded improperly. Take these precautions before throwing them out:
- Collect used household batteries in a container. A cardboard box or plastic tub is a safe option.
- Prevent any fire risk by taping 9-volt battery terminals before tossing.
How to Dispose of Rechargeable Batteries?
The types of rechargeable batteries in use include lithium-ion and nickel-cadmium. Other types are nickel-metal hydride, nickel-zinc, and small sealed lead batteries. The toxic metals that generate energy in these batteries can hurt the environment if discarded incorrectly.
Rechargeable 9-volt batteries, AA and AAA batteries, and D cells for household use look like alkaline batteries. The difference is they fit compatible plug-in chargers. Rechargeable batteries are recycled. Look for the battery recycling seals on rechargeable batteries.
Tip: Remove batteries from broken cordless phones, smartphones, and laptops. They’ll be ready whether you give away, throw away or recycle the device.
Can rechargeable batteries be thrown in the trash?
No, rechargeable batteries of any kind should not be placed in your trash can (or dumpster). It is illegal in some states to do so because rechargeable batteries contain heavy metals that can be hazardous to the environment.
Batteries contain chemicals and metals that produce a reaction to generate electrical energy. While recycling batteries is encouraged to protect the environment, you can throw out some types. Common household alkaline batteries are considered non-hazardous. You may toss out alkaline batteries with ordinary trash.
Button cell batteries used in items like remote car starters and watches contain silver and mercury. They must be recycled. In California, all household batteries are categorized as hazardous waste. Batteries must be brought to a household hazardous waste disposal facility. Another option is recycling at an authorized recycling facility in the state.
Can rechargeable batteries be recycled?
Yes, rechargeable batteries can and should be, recycled, usually at no cost to you.
Where to recycle rechargeable batteries:
Home improvement or office supply stores often accept these products for recycling by hosting a drop box from an organization like Call2Recycle. Find a drop box to recycle batteries near you.
Find other recycling facilities using Earth911’s Recycling Search or call your local solid waste district or city hall.
Preparing Your Batteries for Recycling
Once you find a way to recycle your old batteries, take a few minutes to prep your batteries for safe and convenient recycling.
Prepping single-use batteries for recycling:
- Place a piece of non-conductive clear tape over the ends to prevent any current transfer. You can also bag each battery individually instead of taping the ends.
- Store the batteries in a plastic or cardboard container that doesn’t conduct electricity in case there is a spark.
Prepping rechargeable batteries for recycling:
- Remove batteries from their electronics. Dead laptops must be recycled separately from dead laptop batteries. This is not required for small electronics like cellphones or iPods, which can be accepted by most battery recyclers.
- Cover the terminals with non-conductive tape clear tape.
If you are mailing your batteries to a recycling facility, check for any additional safety steps required for shipping.
Batteries and any other types of waste that could potentially contribute chemicals to the environment should be handled with care, especially when it comes to disposal. If you have other items to get rid of, take a look at the Reuse and Recycle section of our blog for disposal options before tossing them in your dumpster.