AAs, AAAs and 9-volters. If you’re like a lot of people, you probably have a bunch of used batteries out in the garage or down in the basement that you need to get rid of.
Used batteries like everyday alkalines, batteries that run mobile phones and the kind that get your vehicle started every morning can be hazardous to people and the environment, so it’s important to dispose of them properly. Recycling is the responsible choice, and in some places it’s the law.
So why is it important to recycle our old batteries? What kinds of batteries can be recycled? How are they generally used?
Let’s find out.
Why Recycle Batteries?
Because we can! A wide range of batteries can be recycled, and there’s probably a place to do it not far from where you live.
As already mentioned, in many municipalities it’s illegal to dispose of batteries in the trash
Most batteries contain hazardous heavy metals and toxic chemicals like lithium, lead or cadmium, and many contain manganese, mercury, nickel, silver or zinc. Sulfuric and other acids in used batteries need to be considered, as well.
When batteries go into landfills and are damaged or begin to deteriorate, all of those substances can leach into the soil and groundwater systems, damage ecosystems and wildlife habitat and, ultimately, make their way back into our own food chain. And while they don’t have enough power left to run the devices and tools they were designed for, they are still a leading source of fires at in sanitation trucks and waste processing centers across the country.
Finally, batteries can be dangerous to people. The U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Health and Safety Administration has a section on its website dedicated entirely to battery recycling, the hazards involved, training workers need and precautions to observe during the recycling process.
Types of Recyclable Batteries and Their Uses
Primary batteries include AA, AAA, 9Vs, D-cell and button cell batteries. They’re non-rechargeable batteries used in many low-drain devices and household items like clocks, flashlights and remote controls.
NiCad (Nickel Cadmium) Batteries
Nickel Cadmium batteries can be recharged up to 1,000 times, so they’re often used in devices like cordless landline phones, cordless power tools and digital cameras.
Ni-MH (Nickel Metal Hydride)
Ni-MH batteries also can be recharged up to 1,000 times. These batteries are great for the same high-drain devices as NiCads, but they’re more expensive.
Lithium ion batteries are rechargeable and can be used for higher-draining and heavier devices and equipment. You’ll find them in laptops and tablets, larger equipment like electric lawnmowers and even electric passenger vehicles.
Lead acid batteries were the world’s first rechargeable batteries. Because they’re high-power batteries, they’re most commonly used in passenger and work vehicles. These batteries are highly toxic, but the good news is they have the highest recycling rate of all types of batteries.
Handling and Recycling Batteries
In addition to the toxicity of many materials in used batteries, they also can cause fires if they aren’t stored properly prior to recycling. The danger is heightened if they’re stored in a metal container or when a bunch of them are stored together in any kind of container.
It’s best to store batteries in a secure container and line them up side-by-side so it’s not possible for the contact points to touch each other or anything metallic.
It’s helpful if you can sort your used batteries by type before taking them to a recycling facility. Mixing them can be dangerous because the chemistry of each type requires a different process for recycling and disposal. The experts at Cohen know exactly which batteries can be recycled and how to handle them, so if you ever have a doubt, please ask.
Cost vs. Return
There’s one final point about recycling batteries: you’re not going to make money from recycling them.
It costs more to handle and recycle used batteries than the value of any metals that might be reclaimed. Because of that, most recycling companies charge a small fee for taking used batteries.
Some communities have special drop-off points for electronics and batteries where they don’t charge for taking batteries on specific days year-round. Others will take your used batteries for free during spring clean-up drives. For the most part, though, those are exceptions rather than the rule.
Cohen believes every small action is worthwhile to protect the people in our lives and the environment we all live in. We hope you agree.