How to Recycle Single-Use Batteries
We use single-use batteries to power remote controls, computer mice, wall clocks, digital scales, our kids’ toys, and so much more. There are many types of batteries and all of them can be recycled — but not in your curbside recycling bin. There are some nuances about which variety of batteries you can recycle at different locations.
Single-use batteries aren’t usually very complicated with a steel shell, a brass pin collector in the middle, manganese dioxide and carbon cathode, and a zinc anode. Steel is extremely recyclable and the other components can also be reused readily. It’s important to reuse and recycle these non-renewable materials to conserve the resources our Earth provides for us.
To find your nearest battery recycling location jump to the Recycling Locator.
Batteries Recycling Preparations
- Power down your device and then remove the battery and inspect it. If the battery has leaked any of its internal liquid, you need to treat this battery with a bit more care and it may not be accepted for recycling (check with the business you take your batteries to for recycling). It’s best to clean out the inside of your device to remove any crust that the liquid left behind.
- Store batteries so that their active ends are not in contact with each other. Tape the end of the active terminal or line up all batteries so they won’t shift. This will prevent damage to the batteries themselves.
- 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 Single-Use Batteries
- The materials contained within batteries may be either volatile or hazardous. This means they can cause explosions if handled improperly, especially overheated or compressed.
- Batteries contain valuable materials that can be reused to make new products or batteries themselves.
- The materials used to make batteries are non-renewable and we should reuse materials instead of sending them to the landfill. Reusing and recycling materials does take energy but has less impact than mining for virgin materials.
How to Recycle Single-Use Batteries
There are different options for recycling depending on the type of batteries you are looking to dispose of. Some battery types are easy to recycle locally and others you may have to turn to national efforts. Some options require a fee to recycle and others are free.
Free Recycling Options
Check with your local municipality, waste hauler, and local solid waste district to see if they collect single-use batteries for recycling or if they accept batteries during household hazardous waste collection days. Some local hardware stores will also accept single-use batteries for recycling, but it is not always free.
Paid Recycling Options
Standard alkaline batteries such as AAA, AA, 9-Volt, D, and C can usually be recycled at Batteries+ Bulbs stores. They usually charge a small fee. All Batteries+ Bulbs stores are franchise-owned and are run a bit differently so they have different recycling offerings. Check with your local store.
Button cell batteries often come in specialty items such as watches, car fobs, or hearing aids. Jewelry stores, car dealerships, and audiologists frequently have recycling programs at their place of business to deal with these batteries.
There are a number of mail-in recycling options that are more expensive. If you have large quantities of batteries to recycle, look to the Big Green Box, Battery Solutions, or TerraCycle. Call2Recycle, a nonprofit that leads rechargeable battery recycling programs just started offering mail-in single-use battery recycling as well. Both Republic and Waste Management, large waste haulers, also offer national mail-in recycling for many types of batteries.
Frequent Single-Use Battery Recycling Questions
Can I recycle batteries in my curbside recycling bin?
It is very unlikely that you can recycle batteries in your curbside bin or municipal recycling drop-off location. Don’t put batteries in your curbside bin unless you have specific instructions from your local recycling authority to do so.
While curbside pickup is unlikely, many cities and counties will accept single-use batteries during periodic household hazardous waste (HHW) collection events. Visit your city and county website to find out if they host these events.
Some municipalities also have dedicated HHW locations that accept materials like batteries all year round. Check your city website or use Earth911 recycling search to find a HHW location near you.
How are batteries recycled?
Depending on which kind of battery you are recycling, battery components can become many different new products. Battery manufacturers frequently recycle spent battery components directly into new batteries. Steel can be recycled into kitchenware such as pots and pans, and silverware or cups and plates. It can sometimes be turned into asphalt.
Is it against the law to throw away batteries?
Currently, California is the only state in which it is illegal to throw any type of battery (including single-use) in the trash. Many other states do not allow the disposal of rechargeable batteries in the trash. However, just because it may not be illegal in your state, all batteries should be disposed of in a responsible manner.
Many states have a law regarding the proper disposal of batteries. If you’re curious about your state, take a look at the Recycling Laws map from Call2Recycle.
What are the most common types of single-use batteries I might use at home?
Alkaline: The most common type of single-use household battery, you may use them in flashlights, TV remotes, wireless mice, clocks, and toys.
Button cell: Either single-use (alkaline, zinc-air) or single-use lithium, these small batteries are commonly used in watches and hearing aids. Also sometimes called coin batteries, they are a choking hazard for small children.
Lithium single-use: Found in cameras, watches, remote controls, handheld games, and smoke detectors, these batteries sometimes have a specialized shape for the product they power.
Silver-oxide: You may have single-use or rechargeable button cell silver-oxide batteries in small electronics like watches, calculators, and hearing aids.
Zinc-air: These single-use batteries often come in button form for use in small electronics like hearing aids and watches.
Zinc-carbon: You may find these single-use batteries in TV remotes, clocks, smoke detectors, and other household electronics.
- Home Battery Recycling Guide – How to recycle batteries broken down by common types found at home
- Recycling Batteries is Easy with The Big Green Box – Overview of The Big Green Box mail-in recycling program
- Used Household Batteries – Information from the EPA about the types of batteries used in households and how to manage them when they are no longer needed.
- How to Recycle Rechargeable Batteries – Our Recycling Guide for rechargeable batteries
Having trouble finding a local recycler? Check out the Big Green Box mail-in option!
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