Technology permeates every corner of our lives, from computers and televisions that entertain us, to smartphones and smart vehicles that keep us connected while on the go. According to the EPA, Americans purchase nearly 3 billion dry-cell batteries every year to power radios, toys, cellular phones, watches, laptop computers and portable power tools. Sophisticated batteries are the reason we can enjoy all of this technology, but what happens to the batteries after their life has been drained for the last time? Most batteries are made up of heavy metals, including nickel, mercury and lead. Tossing batteries in the trash means these batteries could leach these toxic substances into the soil and eventually local water supplies. Here are some easy tips for recycling them instead:
- Store spent single-use batteries in a sealed container until they can be recycled. Old batteries can leak acid and other harmful substances, so you don’t want to just leave them in a drawer. Also, keeping spent batteries in a separate container ensures that you won’t mistake them for working batteries.
- Check with your local household hazardous waste (HHW) collection center. If your community recycling center offers drop-off recycling, chances are it also accepts HHW during certain days and times. Make sure you follow all guidelines for packaging and delivering the batteries, and pay attention to rules about single-use versus rechargeable batteries.
- Cell phone and other rechargeable batteries can be recycled for free at any Call2Recycle location. Call2Recycle works with local businesses and organizations to set up collection points. Then, the precious metals recovered from used batteries create new batteries and stainless steel products. Visit call2recycle.org to learn more.
- Car batteries have the highest recycling rates of any type of battery. Every part of the automotive battery, from the casing to the electrolyte solution, can be recycled to make new batteries. Car batteries can often be recycled at HHW facilities, but if that is not convenient, try taking them to an auto parts store or a scrap metal recycler. You may even get paid for them!