Little girl switches out the batteries in a toy

Earth911 is honoring the 52 years of Earth Day with 52 Actions for the Earth. Each week through Earth Day 2023, we will share an action you can take to invest in the Earth and make your own life more sustainable. The turn of the year is a great time to take care of some of those jobs around the house that we often put off. This week, you can take action for the Earth and clear some space at home by switching your batteries.

Action: Switch Your Batteries


These days, nearly everything we own contains a battery. From watch batteries to toys powered by single-use AA or AAA batteries to our rechargeable power tools, and of course, our cars, there are a lot of different kinds of batteries in a home. What they all have in common is that they are bad for the environment and often hard to dispose of safely. Batteries contain red list chemicals like cadmium, mercury, and lead. When people dispose of batteries in a landfill or incinerator, these chemicals can be released into groundwater and the air.

Many states ban batteries from disposal in the garbage. Many others don’t specifically regulate batteries, but batteries still meet their definition of hazardous waste. Even where disposal is illegal, recycling batteries can be complicated. The many different kinds of battery contain different chemicals with different recycling processes and handling requirements. And community resources for recycling vary widely across the country. As a result, nearly every home has a stash of dead batteries. That pile of batteries just keeps growing while we wait for an easy recycling solution.

Recycle Batteries

This week, dig out that stash of old batteries and figure out how to recycle each type. Use Earth911’s home battery recycling guide to start. Most of your old batteries will probably be the old kind of single-use battery, but even rechargeable batteries eventually die and need to be recycled. Don’t forget to collect and recycle the bigger and more unusual batteries like rechargeable tool batteries while you’re at it.

To find your nearest battery recycling location, use Earth911’s Recycling Locator or use the recycling search tool. If your local recycling options are limited, look into mail-in recycling programs. As you research your options, make a note of the types of batteries you use most.

Switch Your Batteries

Now that you have a clear idea of the types of batteries you use, you can take a few minutes to find more sustainable alternatives. Most of your electronics probably already use rechargeable batteries, but nowadays, you can even replace disposable AA and AAA batteries with rechargeable options.

But you might have a stock of disposables on hand. If you do, go ahead and use them before recycling them. As you use up your existing stock of batteries, choose more sustainable ones to replace them. If you want to go even further, consider a portable solar energy system to recharge your devices and your new batteries, or even switch your home to solar electricity.

By Gemma Alexander

Gemma Alexander has an M.S. in urban horticulture and a backyard filled with native plants. After working in a genetics laboratory and at a landfill, she now writes about the environment, the arts and family. See more of her writing here.