If you’ve ever had a plan to declutter your home and get rid of a lot of old junk, you’ll no doubt find a lot of old batteries along the way.
Just about everything in our home from our TV remotes to kids’ toys use batteries of some sort, and when they’re no longer useful to us we end up tossing them to the side or inside a random drawer somewhere.
Can you recycle batteries and what is the right way to do it?
It is possible, and recommended, to recycle batteries, provided you follow the rules of your local area.
Batteries pose a risk to human health and therefore need to be disposed of correctly, but they also contain many valuable metals that make them a dream recyclable and something that can be made again and reused time and time again.
If you’ve uncovered a lot of batteries after a house decluttering or just want to know the right way to get rid of the ones that no longer work, this is the guide for you.
Can Batteries Be Recycled?
When we think of recycling around the home, we usually gravitate towards plastics, cardboard, and glass, but should we also be focused on recycling our household batteries?
As it turns out, all batteries can be recycled, but some perform better in the process than others.
The best types of batteries to recycle are button cells and lead-acid automotive batteries, and this is because their parts are higher in value and their chemical ingredients are more toxic.
Other types like rechargeable nickel-cadmium and lithium-ion batteries are also recyclable but you’ll need to get the job done in the right place.
Recycling a battery is just like any other material, and special plants work to break them down and strip them of their parts.
These parts are then returned to their original state so they can be used to make new things, and in the case of these special items, they’re normally used once again to create batteries.
Why Should You Recycle Batteries?
Although batteries are one of the most common household items used for things like remotes, clocks, toys, and electronics, they’re still incredibly harmful.
Batteries in themselves pose a serious threat to our health and safety, and also to the environment, so there are ample reasons to recycle them.
Although they’re dangerous, batteries are also full of valuable materials and when recycled, these materials can be uncovered a lot easier than it was to source them in the first place.
Zinc, manganese, cobalt, and cadmium are just some things used to make batteries that can be removed during the process, but there are plenty of other reasons you should recycle them as well.
- Reduce the amount of waste that’s thrown into landfills each year. There are 2,000 active landfills in the US holding 780,000 tons of daily garbage that get thrown into them, and batteries don’t have to be part of this problem.
- Remove any hazardous or toxic waste that’s thrown into landfills and makes its way into oceans and riverways. Batteries feature lead, mercury, and cadmium which can be toxic to both soil and water.
- Reduce the risk of fires and explosions that occur from batteries. When stored incorrectly or disposed of without care, lithium metal batteries are capable of exploding and causing serious harm.
- Reduce the number of natural sources that have to be mined to make new batteries. By recycling, we can reuse these materials which means less stress is put on the environment.
The Different Types of Batteries and How They’re Recycled
Batteries come in all shapes and sizes but the most important thing to consider for recycling is what they’re made of.
These are the most common types of batteries, what they’re used for, and what happens during the recycling process that makes them so useful.
Lead-acid batteries are found in cars, golf carts, and forklifts, and contain a high amount of lead which can be dangerous when left in a landfill.
Up to 99 percent of this lead can be reused through recycling which makes the process very useful.
Silver oxide batteries
These are commonly used for small items like watches and medical devices and must be handled with care as they contain mercury. They can be recycled to have this mercury remove but must be done at a special facility.
These common batteries must go through a lengthy process to strip their parts and be recycled but the payout is worth it.
Lithium-ion batteries contain things like copper, cobalt, and nickel, as well as rare earth, of which up to 96 percent of them can be recovered.
Where and How Do You Recycle Batteries?
To recycle your batteries and do your part for the planet, it’s a little more complex than other household items.
Unlike glass jars and cardboard, you can’t simply throw batteries into the recycling bin. This is because most recycling facilities don’t have the means to recycle them, as they’re very unique items.
Luckily, there are plenty of options out there for battery recycling programs, so all it takes is a look into your local area. In many towns, there will be battery collection points at city hall, supermarkets, and universities, so all you have to do is place them in the box.
If this isn’t an option, a quick search online will show you where the closest battery recycling service is, so you can drop them off yourself.
For smaller rural towns and people who are unable to bring their batteries in, some services take mail-in batteries.
These organizations send out battery recycling kits that allow you to safely send yours directly to them, and some will even pick them up from your front door.
It’s important to note that these services and drop off points don’t accept all types of batteries. Some will only ask for rechargeable batteries and others will have specific materials and shapes that they take.
Make sure you check that your batteries fit the requirements before you drop them in, otherwise you’ll need to find another way.
What Can You Do With Old AA Batteries?
AA batteries are the most common type of household power cells used today and the first thing that people think of when they hear the word ‘battery’.
AA batteries are used in either single or paired devices and power things like remotes, portable music players, clocks, and children’s toys.
If you’re not using a rechargeable battery, you should never attempt to charge it. This can be dangerous and damaging, so make sure you read the label clearly before you do.
For a single-use battery, the two options you have are to throw it in the trash or recycle it, but there are further considerations to make.
Alkaline AA batteries used to contain mercury, but a ruling in 1996 means this is no longer the case in the United States.
Therefore, it’s safe to throw them in the regular garbage where they’ll be taken to a landfill. The only exception to this is California residents, who must recycle there’s, as it’s illegal to throw any type of battery in the trash.
Batteries are just some of the everyday household items that can be recycled that people aren’t aware of, but doing so comes with many benefits for planet earth and its inhabitants.
To get further insight into recycling batteries, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions about them, so you can find out what to do with yours.
What’s the Longest Lasting AA Battery Type?
There are many brands out there making AA batteries and if you want to reduce how many you buy, and ultimately throw away, a rechargeable is best.
However, for single-use AA batteries, those made with lithium, alkaline, and copper are still the best performers.
The quality and length of use depend on their manufacturing and materials though, and usually the more expensive the battery, the longer they’ll last.
Can I Mix Old and New Batteries?
If you’re trying to conserve batteries you might think that replacing just half of the old batteries with new ones is a smart idea.
However, doing this can lead to battery leakage or rupture, which is dangerous and costly. It’s best to replace all batteries with new ones when the device they’re powering no longer works.