How to Properly Dispose of Batteries

Steps to battery disposal and recycling

Battery Recycling Bin
iStock/Getty Images Plus, Photobos, 520219023

One of the consequences of our high-tech and mobile lifestyle is the increased proliferation of batteries. This has resulted in how to dispose of batteries and how to use recycling programs to minimize environmental contamination. However, it isn't always apparent how to prepare different types of batteries for safe disposal/recycling.

How to Handle Different Types of Technology Batteries

Let's take a look at common battery types and how they need to be handled in the disposal/recycling process. 

Single-Use/Non-Rechargeable Batteries for Tech

The most common battery type is the single-use/non-rechargeable alkaline battery, which comes in the AA, AAA, C, D, 9-volt, and Button Cell (watch) sizes. 

You might also find single-use Lithium and Silver Oxide batteries in the above sizes.

If you have alkaline versions of the above batteries and they were made after 1997, you may be allowed dispose of them along with your other garbage as they don't pose a toxic landfill danger under EPA standards, but battery disposal requirements also vary by state.

New Jersey and Georgia are examples of states that allow the disposal of alkaline batteries in the regular trash. However, California is the only state where throwing away single-use batteries of any type made in any time period in the garbage or trash is illegal. In California, all batteries must be recycled

Rechargeable Batteries

Rechargeable batteries used in camcorders, smartphones, laptops, and other devices present additional issues regarding toxicity if disposed of in the trash or garbage. 

This means that regardless of location, rechargeable batteries are required to be recycled and not just discarded with the regular garbage.

Common Types of Rechargeable Batteries Include: 

  • Lithium-Ion (LiOn)
  • Nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cad) 
  • Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH)
  • Nickel Zinc (NiZn)

Lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries should never be placed in the trash or in curbside recycle bins as they could pose a fire danger.

Before recycling, make sure the battery can no longer be recharged. If you wish to recycle a rechargeable that still accepts a partial charge, make sure it's totally discharged before recycling. 

If you don't need the battery charger anymore it should also be recycled.

How to Prepare Batteries for Disposal or Recycling

Before you dispose or recycle batteries, here are some basic prep steps for both single-use and rechargeable batteries.

Cover Battery Contacts

Cover the battery contacts (especially the "+" contact) with non-conductive masking or electrical tape, or you can put each battery into a small plastic bag so the contacts don't touch other batteries. This is especially important for any batteries that may be leaking.

AA Battery Ends Taped for Recycling

Scotch Tape is prone to static electricity and doesn't always stick well. 

Use a Non-Conductive Container

If you have a large number of batteries, after taping the contacts (missing from the photo below), put them in a non-conductive plastic or cardboard container for easier and safe transport to a local recycling center.

Battery Recycle Container Example
Chepko, iStock/Getty Images Plus

When buying batteries, consider keeping the original packaging as you can also partially reseal the same or other batteries of the same size in the packaging for additional protection. 

Extra Considerations For Recycling Rechargeable Batteries

Whenever possible, recycling is the best option, since some batteries are dangerous for our environment. But if you're going to recycle batteries, you should keep these points in mind:

  • If you're recycling an old laptop, remove the battery. The battery and laptop need to be submitted separately for recycling.
  • If you're recycling a smartphone, you don't have to remove the battery, as the battery and phone can be recycled together (don't throw away a smartphone).
  • If you're keeping the phone, but just want to get rid of the battery that's no longer charging, take the phone to an authorized dealer so you can get the battery removed and replaced with a new one.
  • If you're disposing or recycling a rechargeable battery via shipping rather than in person, make sure you check for any additional procedures or packaging the facility you're shipping to requires.

Where You Can Recycle or Dispose of Batteries

Check online for options in your specific location for disposing or recycling batteries. Enter keyword phrases into a web browser search engine, such as: "Recycle batteries near me" or "Recycle batteries (your city or county name)." 

Battery Recycling – San Diego

Earth 911 also offers an online search for battery disposal and recycling locations. Go to search.earth911.com/ and type in alkaline or rechargeable batteries in their search box, enter your Zip Code, then select Search.

Earth 911 Recycling Location Search

Select cities or counties may also allow you to put old household non-car batteries into a plastic bag or container and place it separately on top of, or next to, the other weekly garbage/recycling container for pickup. San Francisco offers this option.

There are national battery disposal/recycling options that may provide local drop-off points as well. Make sure you understand their recycling procedures. 

Physical Recycling Locations

Look for periodic local community e-waste disposal/recycling events and check if they include battery recycling opportunities.

Battery Disposal Recycling by Mail/Shipping

If you plan on shipping your old battery(s) to an outside location, here's a listing of possible choices:

Some of these options are more appropriate for businesses that need to recycle large quantities or specialized batteries. Also, not all battery types may be accepted.