How To Recycle Batteries – The Ultimate Guide to Battery Recycling

In the era of rapid climate change when species are going extinct every day and global temperatures are rising at an alarming rate, it is more important now than at any time in human history to be mindful of our behavior. Mindful of the choices we make on a daily basis that can have a negative impact on our planet’s health. One of those behaviors that people do every day is the simple action of tossing used batteries into the garbage. Although this might seem like a harmless act, the fact is that improperly throwing away batteries can be very detrimental to the environment. Batteries are considered hazardous because of the harmful materials contained within them such as nickel, mercury, lead, and other components. However, what the majority most people are unaware of is that they are a valuable source of recyclable metal. This is where battery recycling comes in. 

The purpose of battery recycling is to decrease the number of batteries being disposed of as municipal solid waste and finding components in those batteries that can be reused or at minimum disposed of responsibly. Recycling most batteries with your regular day-to-day trash is harmful to the environment and may also lead to water and soil pollution. In this article, we will address all of your battery recycling related queries one by one. So, let’s start with: are batteries recyclable?

Video: Battery Recycling

Are Batteries Recyclable?

You may be wondering are all batteries even recyclable? Can you throw away batteries? The answer is almost all batteries can’t be thrown away in the normal trash. However, to ensure their safe disposal, it is pertinent to categorize them. Mixing batteries during recycling is hazardous as each battery has a different chemistry and thus a different process for recycling. In order to stay sustainable, we need systems in place for safe battery recycling. Dividing them by type is the first step. The reason is that yes you can safely dispose of used alkaline batteries in the garbage, but the answer to “Can you throw away rechargeable batteries” is no.

Lead Battery Recycling

The process for lead battery recycling is not only comparatively simpler but also low-cost, as retrieved lead can be used in new batteries. Unsurprisingly, lead batteries have a successful recycling rate of almost 100% in North America and Europe.

  • You start recycling lead batteries by crushing them into small pieces.
  • The process separates plastic, lead, and electrolyte components.
  • Next, you melt the lead to create lead ingots, useful in new battery production.
  • You also repurpose the plastic casing into new battery cases.
  • Additionally, you neutralize the sulfuric acid for safe disposal or conversion into useful products.

Nickel-Cadmium Battery Recycling

Nickel-cadmium batteries require disposal through a proper method or else they become a serious environmental hazard. This is why the European Union banned its production and use in 2009.

  • Remember, you must handle nickel-cadmium batteries with care due to their toxic nature.
  • You begin by shredding and separating the batteries into metallic and plastic components.
  • The heat treatment follows, allowing you to reclaim cadmium and nickel.
  • This process results in valuable metals, ready for reuse in new batteries.
  • The leftover plastic undergoes recycling, reducing environmental impact.

Nickel-Metal-Hydride Battery Recycling

Though these are less toxic than nickel-cadmium but still unsafe in large quantities. According to Battery University by Cadex Electronics, original NiMH batteries can be disposed of with household waste, but 10 or more batteries should go to a proper disposal service.

  • Start nickel-metal-hydride battery recycling by disassembling and separating the components.
  • You isolate the nickel-metal-hydride cells next, then apply a high-temperature process.
  • This process, called pyrolysis, helps recover nickel and other precious metals.
  • It’s key to remember that you can repurpose these metals in new batteries.
  • Finally, you process and recycle the remaining plastic and metal components.

Primary Lithium Battery Recycling

Metallic lithium is highly volatile when in close proximity to moisture. Due to the fire risks these batteries present to customers, they should instead be disposed of according to the suppliers’ or your local waste management provider’s guidelines.

  • For primary lithium batteries, you apply a process called hydrometallurgical treatment.
  • This treatment extracts lithium through chemical leaching.
  • It’s crucial to remember, this process also helps recover valuable metals like cobalt.
  • Then, you’ll convert lithium into lithium carbonate, an essential component for new batteries.
  • You’ll also recycle the remaining materials, ensuring minimal waste.

Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling

Lithium-ion batteries have become increasingly popular in the market. Li-ion batteries are relatively non-toxic, but they become an issue because of the amount of them being made.

  • You need to discharge lithium-ion batteries completely before starting the recycling process.
  • Next, you shred the batteries and separate the metallic and plastic parts.
  • You can recover valuable metals like cobalt, nickel, and lithium through hydrometallurgical or pyrometallurgical methods.
  • Following this, you convert the recovered lithium into lithium carbonate for new battery production.
  • Lastly, remember to recycle the remaining components to minimize the environmental impact.

Alkaline Battery Recycling

These batteries are safe to dispose of as the government-sanctioned a decrease in mercury content since 1996. So after the alkaline batteries in the tv remote control or other product are dead you can simply place them in the trash with other household waste.

  • Alkaline batteries require a mechanical process called hammer mill for their recycling.
  • This process breaks the batteries down, separating the paper, plastic, and metal components.
  • You then isolate zinc and manganese through a process called neutralization.
  • Keep in mind, you can repurpose these recovered metals in new products.
  • Lastly, you recycle the remaining materials, maintaining an eco-friendly approach.

Electric Car Battery

Most vehicles’ batteries are traditional lead-acid batteries. These are commonly recycled automotive batteries, but the same cannot be said for lithium-ion batteries used to power electric cars. That means a recycling option won’t be readily available for anyone looking to recycle EV batteries. Although electronics recycling centers are becoming more readily available, it is best to reach out to the vehicle’s manufacturer about what recycling option is best for a lithium-ion battery for an electric vehicle.

  • Disassembling is the first step in electric car battery recycling.
  • You then shred the batteries, sorting the materials into ferrous, aluminum, and battery ‘black mass.’
  • Hydrometallurgical methods help recover lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese from the ‘black mass.’
  • These valuable metals find use in the production of new batteries.
  • Finally, you should remember to recycle the leftover components, reducing waste and environmental impact.

Please note that the types of batteries you can throw in the trash and recycling law can vary from state to state so the best advice is to contact waste collection dropoff sites or a recycling center near you to get the most accurate information regarding the safe recycling process in your state!

Battery Recycling

Related Article: Scrap Metal Recycling

How Do I Recycle Household Batteries?

The most common household batteries are single-use batteries of all sizes. Single-use batteries can be seen all over the household in a range of sizes, including AA, AAA, 9V, D-cell, and others. These are the batteries contained in your remotes, lamps, children’s toys, and other small electronics. All non-rechargeable batteries fall into this category.

Single-use batteries are now deemed harmless by the federal government because they are made of conventional materials. Hence, it can be thrown away with your regular trash in all states except California. Not to mention, most of the time battery recycling carries a fee.

How Do I Prepare Single-Use Batteries For Recycling?

  • Put insulative tape on the corners of your recycling bags to prevent any hazards. 
  • You can store each battery individually while clearly labeling them.
  • Place them in a plastic/wooden container as they are good insulators.

How Do I Recycle Rechargeable Batteries?

More people are now turning to rechargeable batteries in an effort to be more eco-friendly, but if these batteries are not recycled properly they can have a very negative impact on the environment. You will be able to locate them in mobiles, digital cameras, and other power electronics in your home. Thankfully, anyone who wants to recycle rechargeable batteries can typically do so at no cost at many home improvement stores. Battery recycling Home Depot is one option as well as Lowes battery recycling facilities.

All and every type of rechargeable battery must NOT be thrown in your trash can. They contain materials that can be dangerous to their surroundings if they come in contact with moisture. This is why this practice is illegal in most states. The good news is finding a recycling location near you for any consumer battery can be as easy as a quick Google search for “Direct recycling location near” and then entering your city name!

Prepping Rechargeable Batteries For Recycling

Rechargeable battery recycling first starts with determining the condition of the said battery. If it s spent (or dead) battery simply:

  • Remove batteries from their electronics
  • Dead laptops and their batteries must be recycled individually
  • Cover the terminals with non-conductive tape clear tape

However, if the damaged battery is leaking it could potentially create fire hazards and you should therefore first scrub off any film or residue that could interfere with the recycling process.

Where Do I Dispose Of Used Batteries?

When it comes to disposing of batteries it is important to think locally! Most towns contain information regarding battery recycling in the section listing “other types” of recycling. You will most probably be exposed to the best options available, and then it’s up to you to decide. This is a good place to begin!

Battery Recycling Near Me

Battery recycling law prohibits nearly all battery types from being thrown into the trash can so it is important to find a local agency to help recycle any spent battery. Here are 5 options to help assist you with safely recycling most battery technology!

  1. Websites such as Call2Recycle offer online resources to assist in your battery recycling mission. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code to find the closest battery recycling center using their Recycling Locator.
  2. Similarly, Call2Recycle has a ZIP code option to locate one of their convenient battery recycling locations. Call2Recycle also offers a system of more than 34,000 local recycling centers and drop-off locations for battery recycling, comprising local municipalities and famous brands from Best Buy to The Home Depot. 
  3. Call 1-800-CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687) to facilitate finding the nearest battery recycling center. 
  4. gives you ample information to assist in electronics and battery recycling.
  5. Explore your local government household hazardous waste agency’s website.

Free Battery Recycling Program Near Me

  • The Big Green Box™ is a national service that offers corporations, customers, municipalities, and others, simple and cost-effective methods for battery recycling.
  • Battery Solutions sells battery recycling solutions to the public as well as the local government.
  • Retriev Technologies Inc is a firm that reprocesses most kinds and sizes of batteries including alkaline, NiCd, and Lead among many others.
  • Kinsbursky Brothers Inc is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-authorized battery recycling facility in California.
  • Aqua Metals is an enterprise that uses aqua refining to salvage lead-acid batteries.

Why is battery recycling the best solution? Why put in the extra effort? Well, it results in the conservation of natural resources, such as metals. Moreover, it helps prevent pollution by decreasing the demand for new raw materials. Not only does it helps create new jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries in the United States, but the recycled material can be reprocessed for the production of other products.

Most importantly, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global climate change. Battery recycling helps sustain the environment for future generations. If you want a safe, secure, and healthy future for your grandchildren, put in the 10-15 minutes of minimal extra work today and see the magical results!

Battery Recycling Frequently Asked Questions

What happens to batteries collected in household hazardous waste collections?

Batteries collected in household hazardous waste (HHW) collections are typically sent to recycling facilities to be disposed of properly. There, professionals sort them by battery types such as lithium-ion, lead acid, or nickel-cadmium, to ensure each type is processed properly. This not only promotes waste reduction but also helps manage potential toxic substances in our environment.

Can I dispose of batteries in my regular recycling bin?

No, you shouldn’t. Regular recycling bins are not equipped to handle batteries. Instead, you should look for local household hazardous waste collections or collection programs specifically designed for batteries. Some electronic devices retailers offer drop-off locations. The Department of Environmental Protection or similar bodies can provide information on such programs.

How are alkaline and zinc-carbon batteries recycled?

Alkaline and zinc-carbon batteries, such as common AA and AAA batteries, go through a mechanical process called a hammer mill for recycling. This process separates the components, allowing professionals to isolate zinc and manganese. The result is valuable metals that can be repurposed, aiding in waste reduction and reducing environmental complaints related to disposal.

How can I get involved in battery recycling initiatives?

You can get involved in many ways. You can participate in household hazardous waste collection events or drop your used batteries at collection points like city halls or designated green boxes. Don’t forget to spread the word about recycling programs to friends and family. Public participation is key to promoting environmental justice and effective management options for waste.

Are lithium primary batteries considered hazardous?

Yes, they are. Lithium primary batteries, used in a variety of items including power tools and hearing aids, contain lithium, a reactive element that can cause fires if improperly handled. Therefore, it’s essential these batteries are appropriately managed as part of household hazardous waste collections.

Remember, proper battery disposal and recycling helps reduce the risks associated with toxic substances and promote a healthier environment. Always consider your local household hazardous waste program, the recycling facilities they work with, and any local battery recycling laws when discarding old batteries.

For further questions, please direct your media inquiry to your local Department of Environmental Protection or waste collection organization. Let’s all do our part in making sure our batteries are more than just a one-time-use product. Remember, recycle your batteries and contribute to a more sustainable world.