How to Recycle Single-Use Batteries

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 very complicated. They usually are made 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, add your ZIP Code and look for your nearest location.

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Batteries Recycling Preparations

  1. Power down your device, 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 location before you take a leading batteries for recycling. It’s best to clean out the inside of your device to remove any crust that the liquid left behind.
  2. Store batteries so that their active ends are not in contact with each other, which can cause a spark and fires in your home or the recycling facility. In fact, there were 390 battery-related fires at recycling sites in 20222. 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.
  3. 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 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.
  • Batteries contain valuable materials that can be reused to make new products or batteries.
  • The materials in batteries may be volatile or hazardous. This means they have the potential to explode if handled improperly, especially when overheated or compressed. Keeping these chemicals out of the environment prevents water table pollution due to leaching from a landfill.

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. More states are banning batteries from landfills, so it may be illegal to put them in the trash.

To find your nearest battery recycling location, use our recycling search tool.

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 may have different recycling offerings. Check with your local store.

Terracycle offers a mail-in battery recycling service that varies in price from $39.00 to $150.00, including a pre-paid shipping label for returning your batteries. The WeRecycle Battery Box, which range in price from $44.95 to $115.95, is another solution for recycling a large amount of batteries. Call2Recycle, a nonprofit that leads rechargeable battery recycling programs recently started offering mail-in single-use battery recycling that cost between $68 and $3,80 for an entire pallet of used batteries.

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.

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?

Even if it is not illegal in your state, keep single-use batteries out of the landfill by disposing of them 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.

Additional Reading

Editor’s Note: This article was last updated in February 2024. Have suggested changes? Please let us know.

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