Recycling & Disposing Of Batteries: The Where, How & Why Guide

Most people know how we dispose of and/or recycle general waste.

But, what about batteries? How do we recycle and manage the different types of batteries we use in day to day life when we are finished using them?

In this guide, we summarise what to know about battery waste management and recycling.

 

Summary – How Do We Recycle Or Dispose Of Batteries

There’s a number of different types of batteries that we use in society (both personally and on a commercial or business level), from car batteries, through to rechargeable phone and laptop batteries, to single use alkaline batteries.

All these different types of batteries have different chemical and metal make ups, so they each have different potential to be recycled, or cause environmental harm is not disposed of properly. Different batteries have different toxicity levels, and some may be more profitable than others to recycle.

On top of this:

Different countries, states and regions might have different regulations and laws on battery recycling and disposal – especially for different types of batteries

Different battery types differ in how profitable or economically feasible they are to recycle and recover materials/metals from (some also use a lot of energy)

Different cities have different programs (of varying ease and convenience to use) set up to dispose, drop off or recycle batteries

 

If we take America for example, alkaline batteries may generally be able to be disposed of in municipal waste (because mercury levels are much lower in alkaline batteries than they used to be prior to the 1990’s – with some now even being mercury free), but in some states like California – all batteries are classified as hazardous waste and must be disposed of to hazardous waste streams, or recycled (depending on the battery type). 

So, the best thing you can do is do an online search for battery disposal and recycling regulations in your area (e.g. where to recycle batteries in Melbourne), and find the relevant organisations responsible where you can drop off or dispose of your batteries at (to comply with regulations). Some initiatives and battery collection services are free, whilst others are private services that are paid.

For example, in Australia, some supermarkets and stores have free drop for recycling of AA, AAA, C, D and 9V batteries (rechargeable and non rechargeable).

Right now, some batteries are recycled more than others – for example, lead–acid automotive batteries (nearly 90% are recycled) and button cells (because of the value and toxicity of their chemicals) might be recycled more in some places. Several reports say that it’s difficult to make alkaline battery recycling cost neutral or profitable.

Some reports say that about 3 billion batteries are thrown away in the US at the moment per year, and only about 5% of lithium ion batteries are recycled.

 

The Different Types Of Batteries

There are a number of different batteries that contain different chemistries, chemicals and metals to each other.

 

  • Single-use batteries are usually alkaline batteries with Zinc, Manganese or Lithium chemistry.
  • Rechargeable batteries are commonly Nickel Cadmium, Nickel Metal Hydride or Lithium Ion.
  • Rechargeable batteries are found in the same shapes and voltage as single-use batteries, as well as specifically designed for laptops, mobile phones and electronic equipment.

– recyclingnearyou.com.au

 

  • Lead Acid Batteries – usually found in cars and forklifts
  • Nickel Cadmium Batteries – usually found in power tools
  • Zinc Based Batteries – usually found in domestic items
  • Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries – usually found in mobile phones
  • Lithium Ion Batteries – usually found in laptops

– recycle-more.co.uk

 

Some of the different battery types are:

  • Alkaline, Zinc Carbon, Lithium, Mercury Oxide, Zinc Air, Silver Oxide, Nickel Cadmium, NiMH, Li-ion, Lead Acid

Read more about the chemical composition of different battery types (what is in them) at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_recycling 

 

  • Lead Acid, Alkaline, Lithium Ion, Nickel Cadmium (NiCd), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), Lithium, Mercury, Zinc Carbon, Zinc Air. 

– batterysolutions.com

 

  • Lead Acid, Nickel-cadmium, Nickel-metal-hydride, Primary Lithium, Lithium Ion, Alkaline

– batteryuniversity.com

 

Which Batteries Do We Recycle, How Do We Recycle Them, & What Materials Do We Recover From Them?

  • Most types of batteries can be recycled.
  • However, some batteries are recycled more readily than others, such as lead–acid automotive batteries (nearly 90% are recycled) and button cells (because of the value and toxicity of their chemicals). 
  • Rechargeable nickel–cadmium (Ni-Cd), nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH), lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel–zinc (Ni-Zn), can also be recycled.
  • There is currently no cost-neutral recycling option available for disposable alkaline batteries, though consumer disposal guidelines vary by region.

– wikipedia.org

 

Battery Solutions recycles the following types of batteries:

  • Lead Acid, Alkaline, Lithium Ion, Nickel Cadmium (NiCd), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), Lithium, Mercury, Zinc Carbon, Zinc Air. 

Read more about how they recycle them, and the materials they recover from them at https://www.batterysolutions.com/recycling-information/how-are-batteries-recycled/ 

 

You can read more about the different battery types, what they are used in, materials recovered from them in recycling, and potential uses of recycled batteries or recovered materials at https://www.recycle-more.co.uk/how-is-it-recycled-/battery-recycling

 

Another resource explaining how batteries are recycled and the types recycled is https://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/recycling_batteries 

 

Where To Drop Off Batteries For Recycling

Programs and organisations set up to receive batteries differ by country, state and region. So, check yours online.

Globally

  • Read more about how different countries recycle batteries, the programs set up to recycle batteries, recycling rates, and which batteries they recycle at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_recycling

 

America

Household batteries, and other common batteries can be recycled at:

  • https://biggreenbox.com/products/battery-recycling-box, and
  • https://www.batterysolutions.com/recycling-information/how-are-batteries-recycled/

For rechargeable batteries – https://www.call2recycle.org/

 

In California: 

  • Most portable electronic devices use rechargeable batteries, and millions of rechargeable batteries are sold in California each year.
  • California no longer allows batteries to be disposed of in the trash because they contain toxic metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel.
  • If released, these metals may be harmful to humans and the environment.

– https://www.dtsc.ca.gov/hazardouswaste/UniversalWaste/Battery_Recycling_Rate.cfm

  • All batteries are considered hazardous waste in California when they are discarded.
  • This includes all batteries of sizes AAA, AA, C, D, button cell, 9 Volt, and all other batteries, both rechargeable and single use. 
  • All batteries must be recycled, or taken to a household hazardous waste disposal facility, a universal waste handler (e.g., storage facility or broker), or an authorized recycling facility.

– https://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/reducewaste/batteries

 

Australia

  • In NSW for example….
  • There’s battery recycling initiatives
  • Phone batteries can be recycled through the MobileMuster program
  • Household alkaline batteries can be disposed of at CleanOut events. These are held in various locations in NSW on specified dates, usually 9am-3.30pm. This service is free.

– environment.nsw.gov.au

 

  • There are a wide range of battery types, many of which contain toxic metals such as cadmium, mercury and lead.
  • Others contain valuable materials like magnesium and zinc.
  • Used rechargeable batteries are a hazardous waste and should not be placed in the garbage bin. This includes batteries in laptops, mobile phones, power tools and cameras.
  • Aldi supermarkets offer a free battery recycling service at all their Australian stores. Any brand of AA, AAA, C, D and 9V batteries (both rechargeable and non-rechargeable) are accepted – simply drop your used batteries into the dedicated bins in store.
  • For other services and for options for different battery types (eg buttons and 12 volts), there’s other waste management options.
  • If your workplace or business has large quantities of batteries to recycle, visit BusinessRecycling.com.au to find suitable collection or pick up service options.

– recyclingnearyou.com.au

 

UK

  • Used batteries can be sent for recycling by placing them into collection containers that can be found at many retail outlets and other public buildings across the UK.
  • Compliance schemes, like Valpak which works in partnership with G & P Batteries, collect these boxes and take the batteries away to be recycled.

– recycle-more.co.uk

 

  • Household batteries can be recycled in United Kingdom at council recycling sites as well as at some shops and shopping centres—e.g., Dixons, Currys, The Link and PC World

– wikipedia.org

 

Which Batteries Do We Dispose Of/Throw Away, & How Do We Throw Them Away?

Some countries and states/regions allow alkaline batteries to be thrown away in general/municipal waste because the mercury levels in them have been reduced by manufacturers over the last few decades.

But, other states like California (as we mentioned above) see all batteries as hazardous waste and required them to be disposed of via hazardous waste disposal (unless the battery is recyclable).

 

What’s interesting is some countries like Japan (via Wikipedia):

  • Japan does not have a single national battery recycling law, so the advice given is to follow local and regional statutes and codes in disposing batteries.
  • The Battery Association of Japan (BAJ) recommends that alkaline, zinc-carbon, and lithium primary batteries can be disposed of as normal household waste

 

Like we said – check the country or state regulations and laws regarding battery disposal and recycling.

 

Environmental & Human Health Impact Of Battery Production & Disposal

 

More Information On Recycling & Disposing Of Batteries

  • Battery recycling is a recycling activity that aims to reduce the number of batteries being disposed as municipal solid waste

– wikipedia.org

 

  • … each year Americans throw away more than three billion batteries. That’s about 180,000 tons of batteries. More than 86,000 tons of these are single use alkaline batteries
  • About 14,000 tons of rechargeable batteries are thrown away in the United States.

– everyday-green.com

 

  • Right now, it’s estimated that as few as 5% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled.

– evrater.com

 

  • Battery use can include for personal use, but also commercial and even industrial use
  • With the further development of electric cars, EV electric batteries will become more prominent in society, and will need to be managed

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_recycling

2. https://sciencing.com/environmental-problems-batteries-cause-7584347.html

3. https://evrater.com/ev-battery-disposal

4. https://www.batterysolutions.com/recycling-information/how-are-batteries-recycled/

5. https://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/recycling_batteries

6. https://www.recycle-more.co.uk/how-is-it-recycled-/battery-recycling

7. https://recyclingnearyou.com.au/batteries/

8. https://www.dtsc.ca.gov/hazardouswaste/UniversalWaste/Battery_Recycling_Rate.cfm

9. https://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/reducewaste/batteries

10. https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/questions/dispose-or-recycle-household-batteries 

11. https://biggreenbox.com/ , and https://biggreenbox.com/products/battery-recycling-box

12. https://www.call2recycle.org/ 

13. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/apr/14/drawer-full-of-them-battery-recycling-waste-eu 

14. http://everyday-green.com/html/battery_statistics.html

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