What You Need to Know about Batteries, the Environment, & Recycling
Today we are talking about all things batteries, landfills, and battery recycling.
Before I became a mom, it only seemed like I used batteries in smoke detectors and flashlights.
But once I had children, battery-operated toys and games seemed to multiply in my home. Gone were the simple and silent toys I loved and remembered as a child– suddenly, most toys make noise. (And a lot of it!)
When the batteries in my children’s toys die, I often take the old batteries out and neglect to add new ones. I’d rather my daughter use a silent toy vacuum cleaner than one with ear-splitting sounds. Not only do the quiet toys save my children’s hearing, but also the sanity of me and my husband.
(Plus, I’ve always hated the choke potential and health hazard of button-cell batteries.)
Every so often, though, some favorite toys do need fresh batteries – and I replace them.
Because of all the battery-operated toys in my home, I have plenty of depleted alkaline AA, AAA and 9V batteries.
Whether our batteries are alkaline, lithium or buttons, I hate to think of tossing them in the trash. (But admit that sometimes I have.)
Batteries - How Many We Use
- Americans throw out approximately 179,000 tons of batteries a year (about 3 billion batteries), of which about 14,000 tons are rechargeable batteries. Source
- in the U.K. alone, 620 million batteries are thrown away each year. Laid end to end, those batteries would reach from the UL to Australia and back again.
And in the U.K., about 22,000 tonnes of household batteries are sent to landfills. Yikes! That's 48,501,697 pounds!
What's in Batteries?
1. Typical household batteries – AA, AAA and 9V – are alkaline batteries made of:
manganese dioxide, carbon, powdered zinc, and potassium hydroxide, all encased in a steel housing. [Source]
2. Since mercury was phased out of alkaline batteries, thanks to the 1996 Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act, alkaline batteries are allowed in most landfills. (This is not the case in California, though, where all batteries are considered to be hazardous waste.)
3. Some batteries still include hazardous materials, though – and they shouldn’t be added to landfills.
Button-cell batteries are made of:
cadmium, lithium, mercury, and silver. And rechargeable batteries are typically are nickel-cadmium, nickel metal hydride, lithium ion, and small-sealed lead. [Source]
Battery Recycling - How to properly dispose of batteries
Even if alkaline batteries are allowed in landfills, I would prefer to recycle them if possible. Remember that if and when batteries are disposed of in trash incinerators and landfills, heavy metals affect air and water supplies.
Recycling prevents this pollution.
After Googling local battery disposal options, I found several drop-off sites in my community where I can take my used batteries.
1. Check your own community’s resources and rules or perform a quick search on Earth911. Earth 911 shows local recycling programs as well mail-in opportunities.
2. Rechargeable batteries can be recycled – simply drop off used ones at recycling kiosks at Best Buy or Office Depot.
3. Since car batteries are made with lead and acid, they should NOT be dumped in the garbage.
Recycle your car batteries for free at AutoZone or Advance Auto Parts. If these stores aren’t in your neighborhood, visit Call2Recycle for other options.
4. Don't EVER burn an old battery. They might explode, causing harm.
By doing these simple things, you can help keep toxins out of our landfills - and out of the environment.
Let's all do our part!
Do you recycle your batteries?
Hilary Kimes Bernstein is a Christ follower, wife, mama, and journalist who writes about making healthy decisions that honor God and happen to help the environment at Accidentally Green. She also encourages others to manage God’s blessings with responsibility and grace through Intentional Stewardship. She’s written two eBooks, First Bites: How To Instill Healthy Eating Habits During Your Baby's First Year, and Accidentally Green: How and Why One Family Began Making Healthy Changes That Honor God and Help the Environment.
I agree with you that kids' toys often get ignored once their batteries die which make the them unusable after some time because of how the dead batteries had corroded inside them. Maybe I should consider looking into the old toys that I had put away in the attic. There might be some merit to recycling batteries and keep my attic safe from the chemicals that can leak out of dead batteries.
My wife and I want to get better at recycling. It was one of our new year resolutions. Alkaline battery recycling is a lot simpler then I thought it was. I go by Best Buy all the time and I can easily dispose of batteries there.
I thought you don't need to recycle batteries these days.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency recommends disposing of alkaline batteries (AA, AAA, C, D) with regular household trash. This doesn't make sense to me. We were able to recycle them for about 10-years and now we can't?
I heard that there isn't mercury in them any longer so that's why.
Instead of spending on alkaline AA batteries, consider spending a few dollars on an "Maximal Power FC999" or "LaCrosse BC1000" charger and "eneloop XX" or "Tenergy" AA/AAA/C and D batteries. These high quality batteries hold a charge better (good shelf life), can be recharged 100s if not 1000s of times. You can even power the chargers using a Solar Panel unit such as: "Goal Zero 12301 Nomad 7M" or "PowerFilm 10 Watt Fold-able Charger" to get off grid power. Rechargeable batteries save money, reduce pollution, and they give options in a storm or other natural disaster.
I just bought some of those at Costco. The eneloops. I think they only had the AA and AAA on them. Thanks! I don't have a goal zero - I heard they don't charge enough to make it worthwhile. What do you think? I only looked into the solar panels a bit. Thanks again.
I'm so glad you're posting about this!! I found that there were battery recycling stations at IKEA. I'm sure there are more where I am in Toronto, but they're definitely not advertised enough. Some universities have battery recycling stations too.
Hey there Lisa! No IKEA near me but our library takes them. :).
I would recycle batteries if the nearest recycling center wasn't 3 1/2 hours away. There's just three things we can recycle here: Plastic, newspaper, and aluminum.
I wonder if since you do have some recycling options, you can petition or request from your local recycling management to have them add in a battery recycle. Can't hurt to ask. I suspect you are not alone and there would be others who would appreciate it as well. :0)
What a fantastic idea, Theresa! There also may be some mail-in recycling options you'd like to pursue (just check earth911.com).