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How to Properly Dispose of Old Batteries 

Have you ever wondered how you should dispose of your old batteries? You’re not alone. In fact, roughly 29 percent of Americans aren’t sure how to dispose of their old batteries. Many consumers tend to put them in their recycling bin or end up hoarding them. However, both of these methods are incorrect. To make things even more complex, there are many different kinds of batteries. So how do you responsibly dispose of old batteries, and why does it matter?

Know The Difference Between Single-use and Rechargeable Batteries

Knowing what kind of batteries you have is key to ensuring they will be recycled properly. 

Single-use batteries come in a variety of sizes like AA, AAA, 9V, C or D cell. These are the most common type of batteries that can be found in TV remotes, children’s toys, and game controllers. While these batteries are safe enough to be trashed, it’s best not to. Single-use batteries that are thrown in the garbage get hauled off to a landfill and only contribute to solid waste.

Many electronics use rechargeable batteries like cellphones, digital cameras, and laptops. There are different kinds of rechargeable batteries which include: 

  • Nickel metal hydride and nickel-cadmium batteries

  • Lithium-ion batteries

  • Small sealed lead-acid batteries

Rechargeable batteries should never be thrown in the trash. These types of batteries contain different material than single-use batteries that can be hazardous to the environment.

How to Recycle Single-use and Rechargeable Batteries 

Unfortunately, you cannot place single-use or rechargeable batteries in your recycling bin for collection. They must go to a special recycling facility so they can be broken down and sorted. Visit the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s website and locate a special recycling facility in your county. Please keep in mind some counties have year-round programs while others have recycling collection events only held on specific dates. Make sure to contact the facility beforehand to ensure they can recycle the type of batteries you have.

Prep Your Batteries for Recycling

Once you have found a special recycling facility that will accept your batteries, you should prepare them for recycling.

For single-use batteries: 

  • Place your batteries in a bag or tape them: To avoid a fire hazard, tape each end of the battery with clear, non-conductive tape to prevent residual discharge. If you do not have tape, you can place each battery in its own plastic bag instead. 

  • Store your batteries in a non-conductive container: Place the wrapped batteries in a cardboard box or plastic container. Do not place them in a metal box because they could spark causing a fire.

For rechargeable batteries:

  • Take the old batteries out of your electronics: Make sure to remove the rechargeable batteries from your old electronics. Your electronics will need to be recycled separately.

  • Tape or bag your batteries: Just like with single-use batteries, you’ll want to safely tape or bag them for recycling. Please see above for directions.

Now that your batteries are safe for transport, you can drop them off at the nearest special recycling facility. Try to drop them off within 6 months once they are bagged or taped.

How to Recycle Old Car Batteries 

Not only should you recycle batteries in your electronics, you should recycle old car batteries too. The good news is recycling car batteries is easier than other kinds of batteries and may save you some money. If you plan on purchasing a new battery from the same retailer, you may be able to take advantage of a store credit called a Core Charge. 

A core charge is a deposit you pay on a new car battery at the time of purchase. When your car battery dies, you can bring it back to the auto retailer and get a refund of your deposit. You can then use this deposit to purchase a new car battery. If your local auto retailer offers core charges, make sure to bring your old car battery back to the store with a receipt. 

If you aren’t able to find any auto retailers that will accept your used car battery, there are other options. AAA’s Battery Roundup is an event held every year on Earth Day that encourages car owners to recycle their old batteries. Local offices establish collection locations and offer free battery checks. You can also search for a drop-off facility to see if they accept old car batteries.
Before recycling your car battery, make sure it is wrapped in thick plastic so the battery’s chemicals won’t leak out.

Why Does Recycling Old Batteries Matter?

Believe it or not, there’s still a lot of value to a battery even after it has been used. 

Once batteries are collected at a special recycling facility, they are sorted by chemistry. The batteries are then broken down into raw materials that can be used for other products. Valuable metals like aluminum, zinc, lead, and nickel are just some of the materials that can be reused from old batteries. For example, when lithium-ion batteries are recycled, the lithium can be made into lithium carbonate, a material used to make foil. This helps preserve virgin resources.

Recycling old batteries also helps the environment. Some batteries contain toxic chemicals and when they are carelessly thrown away, these chemicals can leak into groundwater or harm ecosystems. Another reason you should always recycle batteries is for safety. If not disposed of properly, batteries can overheat and start a fire.

Bottom Line

Batteries power our everyday life from our car to our laptop. Once they are dead, they should be recycled instead of thrown into the trash. Recycling batteries helps create new products, prevents hazardous fires, and stops toxic chemicals from entering the environment. Search for special recycling facilities near you so your batteries can have a second life.

group of batteries on a table.