Millions of batteries of all types and sizes are disposed of in the United States each year. Because they contain various hazardous materials, including heavy metals and acids, they can pose serious environmental risks if not discarded properly. If you want to learn how to dispose of batteries, consider these guidelines.
Part 1 of 2: Disposing of Batteries Properly
Do NOT Dispose of alkaline batteries in the regular trash - they go with household hazardous waste collection for special recycling. Many stores also have a return-to-vendor box for batteries. See your local municipality for more details - many have community environment days for easy drop off/pick-up. 9 volt batteries (the rectangular kind) should have their posts covered with a piece of electrical tape or duct tape or masking tape (any non-conductive tape) as they are a fire hazard - ironic since they are usually used in smoke alarms. Alkaline, or manganese, batteries are used in flashlights, toys, remote controls and smoke alarms. They range in size from AAA to 9 volts:
- You can also dispose of rechargeable alkaline or nickel metal hydride batteries, carbon zinc batteries in household hazardous waste collection.
Dispose of button batteries at a hazardous waste collection site. This kind of battery is used in hearing aids and watches and contains mercuric oxide, lithium, silver oxide or zinc-air. They are considered hazardous material and must be brought to a household hazardous waste collection site for proper handling.
Dispose of lithium and lithium-ion batteries at a battery recycling center. Lithium batteries are used in various small appliances and have been branded non-hazardous by the government. They are accepted at battery-recycling centers.
Dispose of rechargeable sealed lead-acid or nickel-cadmium batteries at a household hazardous waste site. These types must be taken to either a household hazardous waste site, or they may also be taken to a recycling center.
Dispose of lead-acid vehicle batteries at the retailer. Car batteries contain sulfuric acid and are either 6 or 12 volts. This type is large and contains very corrosive material. Most vehicle-battery retailers will dispose of your old battery when you buy a new one. Metal recyclers also will buy your old battery for scrap.
Understand the disposal classifications of various types of batteries. Batteries contain certain highly toxic chemicals that are considered hazardous waste by the federal government. Know what kind of battery you have before you dispose of it.
Dispose of your spent batteries properly. The Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies encourage people to bring all dead batteries to a household hazardous waste collection site or approved recycling center for battery disposal. Batteries that are casually discarded in normal trash pick-up cycles can have serious effects on the environment that include:
- Saturating landfills, eventually leaching slowly into soil and infiltrating the water table.
- Entering the atmosphere after incineration. Certain metals can enter the tissues of organisms, with deleterious effects on their health.
Take steps to use eco-friendly batteries. By making careful, considered choices, you can select batteries that have lower levels of heavy metals, reducing the environmental impact at landfills and hazardous-waste sites. Some simple steps you can take include:
- Selecting alkaline batteries when possible. Alkaline battery manufacturers have reduced the level of mercury in their products since 1984.
- Opting for silver oxide and zinc-air batteries instead of mercuric-oxide types, which contain higher levels of heavy metals.
- Using rechargeable batteries when possible. Reusable batteries help reduce the environmental impact of dozens of depleted single-use batteries. But they contain heavy metals.
- Buying hand-operated or solar-powered devices when possible.
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