How to Recycle Rechargeable Batteries

Rechargeable batteries come in all shapes and sizes. You’ll find them in your car as well as most electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets, and laptop computers. There are also rechargeable replacements for common household alkaline batteries. No matter the variety,  when rechargeable batteries no longer hold a charge, it’s important to recycle them to reclaim useful materials like mercury, lead, cadmium, nickel, silver, cobalt, lithium, or graphite and to ensure proper handling of potentially dangerous chemicals.

To find your nearest battery recycling location, jump to the recycling locator.

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Rechargeable Battery Recycling Preparations

  1. Turn off your device before removing batteries. After you take the spent battery out of your device, inspect it.
  2. If the battery has leaked any of its internal liquid, you need to handle it with extra care and separate it from other batteries you stored for recycling. It’s recommended to store damaged batteries in a non-flammable material like sand or kitty litter to ensure that they do not cause a fire. You should also ask your battery recycler how they want to accept damaged batteries because they will have to treat them differently. It’s also a good idea to check if the battery has been recalled by looking at the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website.
  3. Be sure to clean the inside of your device after removing a damaged battery.
  4. The safest way to store spent batteries is so that their active ends are not touching. Taping either end of the battery so that it can’t touch another battery is one way to do it. You can also line up all batteries so they won’t shift in a box so that no two batteries’ terminals connect. This practice will prevent fires and damage to batteries.
  5. Store batteries in a cool and dry area. Never store spent batteries in a location where they can overheat or freeze as it can harm batteries and potentially start a fire.

Why Recycle Rechargeable Batteries

  • The materials contained within rechargeable batteries may be either volatile or hazardous. This means they can cause explosions if handled improperly, especially if they are overheated or compressed.
  • Batteries contain valuable materials that can be reused to make new batteries and other products.
  • Most of the materials used to make batteries are non-renewable. Our Earth’s resources are finite, so we should aim to reuse materials rather than throw them into landfills whenever we can. We do less damage to the environment when we recycle any material compared to when we extract virgin material from the ground.

How to Recycle Rechargeable Batteries

You will have different options for recycling depending on the type of batteries you are looking to dispose of. Rechargeable batteries are often easier to recycle than their single-use counterparts due to governmental regulations.

Free Recycling Options

Call2Recycle is the nonprofit that leads the United States’ largest rechargeable battery recycling program and they have a recycling search locator to help you find a retailer that accepts rechargeable batteries, usually for free. The following are just some of the businesses that collect rechargeable batteries for free recycling through Call2Recycle:

Also, check with your local municipality and local solid waste district to see if they collect batteries for recycling or during household hazardous waste collection days.

To find your nearest battery recycling location, jump to the recycling locator or use our recycling search tool.

Paid Recycling Options

Rechargeable household batteries such as AAA, AA, 9-Volt, D, and C can usually be recycled at Batteries+ Bulbs stores. Most locations charge a small fee. They are franchise-owned, and each store has different (although similar) programs.

You may be able to recycle rechargeable batteries for power tools, cell phones, or electronics when buying a new product at a hardware, phone, or electronics store. Generally, a purchase is required.

If you don’t have any of these retailers in your area, or if you are recycling a different type of battery, you might look to a mail-in option through the Big Green Box. Also, large waste haulers Republic and Waste Management both offer national mail-in recycling for batteries.

Frequent Rechargeable Battery Recycling Questions

How are rechargeable batteries recycled?

Depending on which kind of rechargeable battery you are recycling, components can become many different products. More than anything else, rechargeable battery manufacturers recycle used battery components directly into new batteries.

Is it against the law to throw away batteries?

Some states in the U.S. have put laws into place that do not allow residents to dispose of rechargeable batteries in the trash. In these states, battery manufacturers support the recycling process and so recycling is more common. Take a look at the Recycling Laws map from Call2Recycle to see what the laws are in your state.

Even if you are not required to recycle rechargeable batteries, it is the right thing to do. To find your nearest battery recycling location, jump to the recycling locator or use our recycling search tool.

What are the most common types of rechargeable batteries I would use at home?

Lead-acid: These batteries are often used for cars and power systems in other forms of transportation such as boats, RVs, four-wheelers, etc. Some older solar energy storage batteries are also lead-acid.

Lithium-ion (Li-ion): These batteries are commonly used for older cell phones and other portable devices such as power tools, and cameras. You may also find lithium-ion button cell batteries in things small electronics like calculators, watches, and toys.

Nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd): You may use these in power tools, cordless phones, cameras, bio-medical equipment, and solar path lighting.

Nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH): These batteries may be in cell phones, digital cameras, power tools, and GPS units but are less common today.

Nickel-zinc: These batteries are used in wireless keyboards, digital cameras, and other small electronics.

Silver-oxide: You may find single-use or rechargeable button cell silver-oxide batteries in small electronics like watches, calculators, and hearing aids.

Additional Reading

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Trying to recycle rechargeable batteries? Click here to find a recycling location near you using the recycling search by Earth911.