Safe and Sustainable – How to Dispose of Different Batteries

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Every year in the U.S., millions of batteries – both single-use and rechargeable – are purchased, used, and disposed of. Some of these batteries find their way into recycling programs, but many are also disposed of carelessly. And when it comes to batteries, simple disposal into the trash is especially careless. Batteries not only contain environmentally hazardous chemicals, but their manufacture also takes a toll on the environment. And this makes it even more important to offset that environmental harm by recycling them as much as possible. 

Batteries, however, are not going anywhere any time soon, and battery production is only increasing with talk of a “battery-powered future” commonly heard within the industry. This is the challenge that stainability efforts need to meet head-on. 

More Important Than Ever 

The obligation to recycle batteries has naturally become all the more pressing as more batteries are used in everyday life. A massive part of this increase has been down to the development of the electric car. These cars need big batteries – or more accurately a linked network of lithium-ion cells – and it will not be long before all drivers are behind the wheel of an EV. Accordingly, the world is going to need to produce a lot more of them in the future. We seem to be in for more batteries – not less – and so recycling these environmentally hazardous products becomes all the more important. 

Also driving this increase in battery use has been the appearance of many new household battery products that are fulfilling ever more diverse roles in daily life. For example, new USB rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, such as those produced by Pale Blue Earth in Utah, are becoming an ever more common sight in households, fast making older lead acid or nickel cadmium batteries obsolete. The massively increased charge capacity and their longevity brings with it many advantages where sustainability is concerned (i.e., they can be used for far longer before disposal), but even these batteries still need to be disposed of correctly. 

How to Dispose of Batteries 

So regardless of the energized research and development that is hard at work finding sustainable solutions for battery power, each different kind of battery still needs to be disposed of properly. Below we discuss how to do so: 

Single Use 

Alkaline and Zinc-Carbon Batteries

There are some reclamation companies that recycle these single-use batteries – typically AA and AAA size. It is best to check first of all. In most cases, these can be safely disposed of in the trash. 

Lithium Single Use 

These batteries are the ones commonly used inside cameras, watches, remote controls, and smoke detectors. The presence of lithium means they have to be disposed of in a particular way. Do not put them in the trash or ordinary municipal recycling bins. They may also spark, so they should be individually wrapped up before disposal. 

Rechargeables 

Nickel Cadmium 

These batteries are typically found inside cordless power tools and digital cameras. They should be disposed of via specialized recycling programs designed for these batteries. 

Lithium-Ion Rechargeables 

Again, the presence of lithium necessitates special disposal. The same rules apply as for lithium single-use batteries. 

Small-Sealed Lead Acid Batteries 

These batteries are commonly found inside mobility scooters and children’s toy cars. They may also be used for back-up power supplies. They will have to be individually sealed and disposed of through a specialized recycling service. 

 

There are several more rules and regulations besides those outlined here, and the best course of action is to check with your local authority. Batteries may be the future, but their disposal remains a major issue for today.

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