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What to do with old batteries

In our increasingly mobile world, batteries are a part of everyday life. They power our cars, portable electronics and items we use every day. Batteries can even be made out of vegetables, as any school-going child will gladly explain to you.


Batteries are identified by the product they’re used for (car battery, cell phone battery, etc.) or their size (9V, button cell). But for scientific purposes, batteries’ names are based on the metals they contain.

Concerning disposal, the name can be helpful because it lets you know what elements are wrapped up in that cylindrical packaging.

Battery recycling is not a matter of possibility. It comes down to the efforts you’re willing to take. Your ability to recycle will also depend on where you live and your closest designated drop-off point.

Rechargeable batteries last considerably longer than single-use batteries, so using them means fewer batteries for disposal. All batteries have a finite life span, but there are steps you can take to prolong the life of your batteries.


Alkaline batteries

Talk to your local waste department, you may be instructed to put these batteries in with your regular trash.

This is partly due to the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act passed in 1996 that phased out the use of mercury in alkaline batteries, making them less of an issue when disposed in landfills. But this doesn’t mean alkaline are not recyclable.

If you do decide to put alkaline batteries in the trash, as in most cases this is legal, you
can take extra steps to prevent leaking such as: [1] Putting multiple batteries in the same plastic bag. [2] Securing the ends of each battery with masking tape.





Recycling these batteries can recover steel and zinc, two valuable metals. In the
case of steel, it can be reprocessed into rebar.


Ni-Cd batteries

Ni-Cd batteries


Inexpensive rechargeable form of alkaline batteries. They can be recharged hundreds of times to avoid disposing of batteries and are, for the most, part interchangeable with alkaline.

Due to the presence of the toxic metal cadmium, these batteries are considered hazardous waste and are not allowed in landfills.

Recycling involves using heat to separate the
high temperature metals, such as nickel and iron, from the low temperature ones, like
zinc and cadmium. Some of the metals solidify after they melt, while others are
reprocessed as metal oxides. These metals all have value.


Li-ion battery

Li-ion battery


The Lithium-Ion [ Li-ion] battery, is commonly found in cellular phones and consumer electronics. These batteries are also being introduced as the power source for electric vehicles.

It’s likely that you’ll be disposing a Li-ion battery along with an electronic device, such as upgrading a cell phone or selling a laptop. In most cases, the company that handles your electronic device will accept the battery as well.

These batteries are recycled in the same way as Ni-Cd batteries and produce valuable metals.


Silver Oxide

Silver Oxide


This is the more common form of the button cell battery, which you’ll usually find in calculators, hearing aids and wristwatches. In addition to their small size, button cells are known for a long storage life and the ability to work well in low temperatures.

Silver oxide and other button cell batteries also contain mercury, which makes recycling a must. Luckily, you’ll have fewer button cells to recycle since they aren’t as common and last longer.

In many cases, a professional will replace these batteries, so ask the business if it will recycle the battery for you. If not, often times these batteries are accepted as part of household hazardous waste programs sponsored by your municipality.


Lead Acid batteries

Lead Acid batteries


These are the batteries that primarily power automotive units, such as cars, boats, golf carts, motorcycles and even lawn mowers.

Lead-acid batteries have a 97 percent recycling rate, which is good because they’re one of the most harmful products in a landfill with a mixture of lead and sulfuric acid.
If you buy a new car battery, ask about recycling options for the old one when it’s installed.

Lead-acid batteries are recycled by separating the battery into its three main components: Plastic, lead and sulfuric acid.


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