Battery Recycling and Disposal Guide for Households

Environmental Hazards of Batteries

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:
bullet     Pollute the lakes and streams as the metals vaporize into the air when burned.
bullet     Contribute to heavy metals that potentially may leach from solid waste landfills.
bullet     Expose the environment and water to lead and acid.
bullet     Contain strong corrosive acids.
bullet     May cause burns or danger to eyes and skin.

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.
Hazards of Household Batteries

Controversy exists about reclaiming household batteries. Currently, most batteries collected through household battery collection programs are disposed of in hazardous waste landfills. Even stores and chains that have established take-back programs admit that it often ends up in the trash. There are no known recycling facilities in the U.S. that can practically and cost-effectively reclaim all types of household batteries, although facilities exist that reclaim some button batteries. Battery collection programs typically target button and nickel-cadmium batteries, but may collect all household batteries because of the consumers’ difficulty in identifying battery types.

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:

bullet     Batteries must be easily removable from consumer products, to make it easier to recover them for recycling.
bullet     Battery labels must include the battery chemistry, the “three chasing arrows” symbol, and a phrase indicating that the user must recycle or dispose of the battery properly.
bullet     National uniformity in collection, storage, and transport of certain batteries.
bullet     Phase out the use of certain mercury-containing batteries.
Types and Uses of Household Batteries
Lead-Acid Automobile Batteries

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.
Non-Automotive Lead-Based Batteries

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.
Household batteries – Dry-Cell Batteries

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.

There are two types of batteries:
(1) primary — those that can not be reused, and
(2) secondary also called “rechargable” — those that can be reused.

like US rechargable battery manufacturer

French rechargable battery manufacturer

German rechargable battery manufacturer

UK rechargable battery manufacturer

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.

Battery Facts and Stats:
bullet    Consumption
bullet    Americans purchase nearly 3 billion dry-cell batteries every year to power radios, toys, cellular phones, watches, laptop computers, and portable power tools.
bullet    Inside a battery, heavy metals react with chemical electrolyte to produce the battery’s power.
bullet    Wet-cell batteries, which contain a liquid electrolyte, commonly power automobiles, boats, or motorcycles.
bullet    Nearly 99 million wet-cell lead-acid car batteries are manufactured each year.
bullet    A car battery contains 18 pounds of lead and one pound of sulfuric acid.
bullet    Recycling and Disposal
bullet    Mercury was phased out of certain types of batteries in conjunction with the “Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act,” passed in 1996.
bullet    Recycling batteries keeps heavy metals out of landfills and the air. Recycling saves resources because recovered plastic and metals can be used to make new batteries.
bullet    Household batteries contribute many potentially hazardous compounds to the municipal solid waste stream, including zinc, lead, nickel, alkalines, manganese, cadmium, silver, and mercury.
bullet    In 1989, 621.2 tons of household batteries were disposed of in the US, that’s double the amount discarded in 1970.
bullet    In 1986, 138,000 tons of lead-acid batteries were disposed of in the US
bullet    Regular flashlight batteries can be disposed of in the trash (generally, some states, like California, have more restrictive rules) , though it is best to take them to a recycler.
bullet    Mercury-oxide and silver-oxide button batteries are often collected by jewelers, pharmacies, and hearing-aid stores who sell them to companies that reclaim the metals.
bullet    In 1993, 80 to 95% of automobile batteries were recycled

What you can do
Batteries are constantly being reformulated – check the labels
Source Reduction Changes in Household Batteries
Read labels. Mercury reduction in ordinary alkaline batteries began in 1984 and continues today. During the last five years, the industry has reduced the total amount of mercury usage by about 86 percent. Since 1992 most alkaline batteries are manufactured with “no mercury added”. Some batteries such as the alkaline battery have had about a 97 percent mercury reduction in the product. Newer alkaline batteries may contain about one-tenth the amount of mercury previously contained in the typical alkaline battery. Some alkaline batteries have zero-added mercury, and several mercury-free, heavy-duty, carbon-zinc batteries are on the market.

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.  
Prevention of Household Battery Waste

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.

bullet    Check to see if you already have the batteries on hand before buying more.
bullet    When suited to the task buy hand operated items that function without batteries.
bullet    Look for the batteries that have less mercury and heavy metals.
bullet    Consider rechargeable batteries for some needs, but remember that they also contain heavy metals such as nickel-cadmium.
Rechargeable Batteries
Rechargeable batteries result in a longer life span and use fewer batteries. However rechargeable batteries still contain heavy metals such as nickel-cadmium. When disposing of rechargeable batteries, recycle if possible.

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.

horizontal rule
Where to Recycle Your Batteries

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.
If you can’t find a location above:

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.

related battery shop


a battery technology engineer, like the battery technology and want to help people solve the daily electronic questions, like to share battery technology with you

Filed Under: Porter Cable Deals


FInd sleep aids on sale now at! icon

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply