How to Recycle or Dispose Alkaline Batteries

An Overview on Recycling Alkaline Batteries

The next time you’re in the grocery store or electronics shop, stop and think a little about how batteries work. Using metals - including toxic heavy metals like cadmium, lead, and mercury, as well as things like zinc, silver, and carbon - these devices help to power up your life. But where do these metals come from? And where will they go when you’re done with them.


Why you should recycle alkaline batteries

True, these metals are mined from the earth, but that doesn’t make them safe for general consumption. Proper alkaline battery disposal may not be at the forefront of your mind as you purchase your next box of AAAs, but it should be:

  • Alkaline: Perhaps the most popular type of disposable battery, alkalines no longer contain mercury in the US because of a 1996 law that phased out that component. Nevertheless, these batteries can be recycled to recover steel and sometimes zinc, so don’t throw them away. Rather recycle them through one of the methods explained here.
  • Carbon zinc: Though less popular now because of their inefficiencies in extreme temperatures, these are still relatively cheap to make and therefore some are still in circulation. They can be recycled to recover zinc through retail drop-off and mail in programs.
  • Mercuric oxide: Though these have been phased out in the US because of their mercury content, you may still have some sitting in your home, and they may come in foreign-made products. These must be recycled to recover the mercury at the very least.
  • Silver oxide: Known most for their use in things like hearing aids, watches, calculators, and the like, these button batteries contain mercury and should always be recycled. Often your jeweler or battery retailer will recycle spent batteries for you, but using the other resources here you should be able to recycle these with other disposable batteries.
  • Zinc-air: Similar to other button batteries, these are made with zinc and are resistant to self-discharging unless exposed to air. They can be recycled with other disposable batteries.


Better battery choices, including how to recycle alkaline batteries

So the next time you’re tempted to just toss your spent batteries, think about how to recycle your disposable batteries instead. It’s not that hard once you know where to look for simple battery recycling solutions:

  • Retail drop off centers: Many electronics stores will accept alkaline batteries for recycling as part of coordinated battery recycling efforts. Give your local Best Buy or Circuit City a call to see whether they participate or check out our recycling database to see our list of battery recyclers.
  • Household hazardous waste collection days: Many municipalities have collection sites and days set aside for accepting household hazardous waste, including batteries. Check with your local solid waste management office to find out what’s available in your area.
  • Mail in programs: Several private companies now take all types of batteries (as well as things like light bulbs and electronics) for recycling. Our recyclers database has a great list of potential companies to which you can mail your spent alkaline batteries.

Better yet, reduce the number of batteries you choose! Sure, the up-front price tag on disposable batteries may be quite a bit lower than rechargeable batteries, but the long-term cost of choosing single-use batteries is very high. Consider that a single rechargeable can replace hundreds of single-use batteries, saving you hundreds of dollars every single year. And less waste is better for the planet, too!


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