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How to Safely Dispose of Old Batteries

Batteries, whether alkaline or lithium, give us the power we need (literally) to keep everything from smoke detectors to our cell phones going. But when it comes time to throw away used batteries, it’s not always clear what to do.

All batteries consist of a combination of chemicals often including mercury, lead, cadmium, nickel and silver, all of which must be properly managed to prevent harm to individuals and the environment. While all batteries require careful disposal, lithium batteries can be particularly hazardous. When exposed to high pressure or high temperatures, that materials in a lithium battery degrade, allowing combustible chemicals to interact and ultimately causing fires.

Photo of bucket of batteries of different varieties waiting appropriate disposal.
Batteries aren’t all alike, and they require proper disposal.

It is uncommon for lithium batteries to pose a threat in our homes. However, if lithium batteries wind up in the recycling bin, they endanger the recycling crews, trucks, and recycling facilities. Compaction of a battery, especially in warmer times of year, could start a fire inside the truck.

Additionally, they pose a threat to crews collecting and sorting materials at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).

Not only can lithium batteries burn skin, they can start larger fires within trucks, MRFs and other facilities.

In fact, batteries cause hundreds of fires a year at recycling facilities around the country.

How to Properly Dispose of Batteries

To help keep everyone safe from chemicals or more serious danger, dispose of your batteries carefully.

  • Alkaline Batteries: The most common household battery are typically non-hazardous. If you follow the correct precautions, you can throw them in the green garbage bin. First, gather the batteries in a cardboard box or plastic container to prevent sparks. Then, tape the voltage terminals to prevent fire. These can also be recycled at the Landfill’s Household Hazardous Waste drop-off.

You can find more information about different kinds of batteries and how to dispose of them by following the EPA guidelines. You should also recycle your car battery!

Thanks for your help keeping our Waste & Recycling crews safe, and for doing your part to protect the environment!

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