For most of my young adulthood, I kept an empty pretzel container filled with used batteries in the back of my closet. As my collection grows, I imagine this battery graveyard to be a small cabinet of curiosities: his corroded AA, an assortment of button batteries, old smartphones that stand in place of priceless art and mesh objects. , felt better. Skeletons—but actually, I didn’t know what to do with them.
I wanted to keep used batteries out of the trash (where they could catch fire or explode) and out of landfills (where they could leach harmful chemicals into local ecosystems). but didn’t know how to recycle them. I’ve also spent decades faithfully recycling plastics, so I was skeptical that recycling would really do nothing (from 1980 to 2018, in the United States Only 7% of all plastic produced was recycled).
Luckily, the landscape of battery recycling options has evolved significantly as I settled into my thirties. Unlike plastic, which is notoriously difficult and unprofitable to recycle, recycling the metals in most batteries is easier and often legally required. After years of reporting on batteries and charging accessories, not to mention recycling of all types of batteries, we have found that these are the best ways to recycle them.
drop them off
A growing number of local governments and some private companies offer designated collection points for the recycling of batteries. Some offer this service for free, while others charge a fee (usually based on the type and amount of battery dropped off). Either way, it’s a convenient option.
Use these searchable databases to find e-waste recycling facilities in your area.
- Call2Recycle specializes in battery recycling and allows you to narrow your search whether you are looking to recycle rechargeable batteries, disposable batteries, cell phone or e-bike batteries. We have an extensive list of public and private collection sites (including our own collection sites that collect up to £11 per battery).
- Greener Gadgets lets you find facilities that recycle many types of e-waste, including televisions, monitors, computers and laptops, printers, cell phones, and more. Most recyclers that collect items that contain batteries, such as cell phones, also accept batteries, so you can filter on the latter category to find facilities that also accept batteries. (However, you must independently verify that your desired location accepts the type of battery you wish to recycle.)
- The interface between Earth911 and GreenCitizen is almost identical, where you can find recycling facilities for all kinds of household waste. Both can be searched by keyword or by selecting common types of waste listed on the left side of the page. For best results, we recommend selecting “Batteries” and then selecting the most specific category shown in the dropdown menu (such as “Alkaline Batteries”).
Once you have decided on your return location, we recommend calling ahead to see if they accept the specific type of battery you have, just in case the website is out of date. You should also check if there are any requirements on how the batteries are prepared, such as sorting by chemical composition, such as nickel-metal hydride, or being sealed in a clear plastic bag.
If you’re stuck at home or just want to recycle by mail, there are some good options.
First, check to see if your local recycler has a mail-in service. Much like buying local produce, it is generally more sustainable to minimize the distance your battery must travel from your home to its final destination (even if your local provider delivers your battery out of state). Or even if it is very likely to be shipped to an overseas material recovery facility ) ). Earth911’s database is the most useful tool I have found for dealing with this problem. Because there is a filter that zeroes out mail-in programs.
If there is no mailing program in your area, our database also shows results for programs in countries that accept batteries from your postal code. Municipal programs and locations are also labeled, which is helpful if you want to distinguish between public and private recycling services. If you can’t find your provider in the databases you’re using (none of which are comprehensive), you may need to do a good old Google search to find your local health department’s main number. to point you in the right direction.
Below are some battery recycling mail-in services that I have tried and recommend.
- Call2Recycle’s smallest Battery & Cell Phone Recycling Kit ($55 at time of publication) weighs up to 25 pounds. Accepts cell phones, coin cells, button cells, batteries up to 300 Wh (budget choice size for portable power station). This includes both traditional alkaline batteries and other batteries made from zinc carbon, lead acid, lithium, and lithium ion. , nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, and nickel zinc. The exterior is a basic cardboard box, but the interior has a flame-retardant liner and comes with 50 small bags to sort and seal the batteries to prevent sparks and leaks. A pre-addressed shipping label and recycling fee are also included in the cost. At dollars per pound, this is the cheapest mailing option I’ve tried.
- The Big Green Box “Mini” (about $35 at time of issue) holds up to 10 lbs of batteries (including Alkaline, Zinc Carbon, Lithium, Lithium Ion, Nickel Cadmium, Nickel Metal Hydride, and Silver Oxide) and a variety of consumer electronics (mobile phones, laptops, tablets, power tools, gaming systems, wireless earbuds, etc.). A roll of packing tape to cover the battery terminals, a shipping label with an address, and a recycling fee are included in the cost of the box.
- TerraCycle Regulated Waste’s EasyPak Micro Battery Recycling Container ($80 at time of publication) holds up to 10 pounds of batteries (about the weight of a small pinscher). It’s easy to use, just put in the batteries and send it to a recycling facility. Shipping label with destination, home pickup, and recycling fees are included in the cost of the container. Used to transmit batteries of various sizes (including AA, AAA, C, D, and 9 volts) and chemistries (including alkaline, carbon-zinc, iron, lithium, lithium-ion, nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal) can. hydride, and silver). The container itself is made of sturdy plastic, so you don’t have to worry about rust, corrosion, or damage from leaking batteries.
leave them for pickup
Few places in the US allow residents to put their batteries out for weekly recycling, but if it’s allowed where you live, it’s a great option. cities can recycle a wide variety of battery types in this manner, including rechargeable and single-use AAA, AA, C, D, and 9-volt batteries. To take advantage of the service, residents simply tape the exposed battery terminals (so they don’t short out and catch fire), seal it in a plastic bag, and place it on top of their home recycling bin. normal pick up day. Taping and bagging the battery may seem like a chore, but it’s worth the effort. Minneapolis recently suspended all recycling pickups for residential batteries after e-cigarette pens began to smolder in the local library’s e-waste collection bin.
However, pickups usually have a few more stipulations. In some areas of Colorado, residents can call to schedule a pickup or wait for their annual household hazardous waste collection. In Los Angeles, where I live, you can call the city’s health department and request curbside pickup. have one After you register and schedule your pickup online, you will receive a bag in the mail for your batteries and other acceptable waste. Seal it and leave it on the curb.
If you’re not sure if government agencies or private contractors handle recycling in your area, much less take your used batteries, start by checking Earth911’s searchable database. . In addition to labeling each search result to indicate whether it is a municipal or private provider, the database has a color-coded list of the various items accepted during regular pickups. (Again, none of the databases I’ve used are completely up-to-date or exhaustive, so you may need to call to confirm your findings.)
No need to recycle batteries.
If you’re fed up with recycling industrial parks, perhaps rightly so, you may feel unwilling to spend time, energy, and possibly money on recycling batteries. There are several
For one thing, it’s safer than throwing it in the trash. Improper disposal of the battery may cause fire or explosion. Not only do you harm your own home when you throw batteries in the trash, you can unwittingly endanger the safety of sanitation workers who come in contact with the trash after it leaves your doorstep.
Some municipalities allow residents to put certain types of batteries, such as alkaline and carbon-zinc batteries, in trash cans, but the EPA still recommends recycling them. Easier than trying to remember which battery is where. It’s easy (even with this handy guide) to misread the fine print or confuse one battery type with another.
Disposing of batteries also negatively impacts local ecosystems. When batteries and other items containing heavy metals and other toxic substances are disposed of in landfills, harmful chemicals often leach into local soil and water systems. But in many cases, the non-ferrous metals commonly used to make batteries and other electronic devices are doomed to waste. For example, in 2018, approximately 3.4 million tons of aluminum, nickel, zinc, and other non-ferrous metals were landfilled, but only 2.4 million tons were recycled.
Similarly, batteries may contain metals that can be recovered and made into new electronics, reducing the overall need to mine more raw materials. This is good for consumers. This is because bottlenecks in the metal mining industry could lead to shortages and drive up the cost of consumer electronics. Additionally, the metal mining industry has a long track record of human rights violations and is the largest source of toxic chemicals released into the environment each year in the United States.
Fortunately, recycling most metals requires much less energy than producing them. Metals are very energy intensive to mine and manufacture, but are generally one of the easiest materials to recycle. And unlike plastic and paper, which degrade each time you handle them, metal can be recycled indefinitely.
Is there another great reason to recycle batteries? We might encourage you to visit new small businesses in your community. I didn’t know there was a store nearby called The Dinosaur Farm that specializes in books and other paleontological tools. Lesson learned: Recycle your batteries and don’t miss the dinosaur-themed toy store.
This article was edited by Ben Keough and Erica Ogg.