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Issue #714: Mar 28 – Apr 3, 2021

Q:  Does any place take small batteries (AA, AAA, D, etc) for disposal or recycle? I have a gallon size ziplock full! What about laptop batteries?

– Mike J.
New Orleans, Louisiana

A:  Assuming that you’re asking about ordinary residential/consumer grade batteries formulated from alkaline, manganese, and carbon-zinc, you might be surprised to hear that these batteries are not considered hazardous waste, and they can be safely disposed of in your household waste.  That wasn’t always the case.  Many household batteries used to contain highly toxic mercury, which could leech onto ground water from landfills. But targeted legislation was passed in 1996, and consumer grade non-rechargeable batteries have been mercury-free ever since.  It is now widely acknowledged by environmental groups that even alkaline batteries that wind up in the landfill pose no risk to the environment.

Despite the aforementioned legislation, there are still some batteries that should not be simply thrown into the trash.  These include most button-cell batteries, as well as almost all rechargeable batteries.  Button cells contain lithium, and common rechargeable batteries, such as laptop batteries, about which you asked, include lead-acid, nickel-cadmium (NiCad), nickel metal hydride (NiMH), lithium-ion (Li-on), lithium-ion polymer (LiPo) and even more exotic types.  All of these formulations contain hazardous substances and should never be disposed by simply dropping them in your household waste.

Although batteries that wind up in the landfill may have been determined to cause no harm to the environment, one could make the same argument for aluminum cans, cardboard, and plenty of other materials, but we choose to recycle them, both for reusability, and to keep bulk out of landfills to the extent that it’s possible.  When it comes to so-called disposable batteries, they contain plenty of materials that are recyclable.  The difference is, that while it is relatively simple to recycle an aluminum can, or a cardboard box, it is much more difficult to deconstruct batteries to the point where the component parts can be recycled.  In short, it’s just not cost effective. As with so many things in our throw-away society, we trade the convenience of disposability for the cost and labor of the recycle process.

With all that background out of the way, there are indeed places that accept batteries for recycling, even the disposable kind (though in my opinion, it’s likely that they just throw those away.  Someone prove me wrong.).  One such business that specializes in batteries is the retailer Batteries Plus Bulbs, formerly just Batteries Plus.  They actually have the stated goal to “Recycle even more than we sell.”  You can read all about their recycling program at, but one thing I will mention, even though you didn’t ask about it, is that they also recycle hazardous lighting products.  Fluorescent tubes of all kinds, including compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) contain mercury.  And there are a variety of other lights, and light-related hardware that Batteries Plus Bulbs will safely dispose for you at no cost.  Check out the store locator on their website for the location nearest you.

If you find that you don’t happen to have a Batteries Plus Bulbs near where you live, many big box hardware stores, such as Lowes, Home Depot, and Menards also offer in-store drop-off for your used batteries to be recycled, or at least safely disposed of.  If none of these work for you, you can always turn to your local community hazardous waste disposal office.  Where I live, for example, disposal of household hazardous waste is free of charge to residential customers.  The particulars may differ in your local community, but according to the Household Hazardous Waste page of my local county’s website, the list of materials they accept includes paints, pesticides, used oil, oil filters, pool chemicals, batteries, gas, solvents, paint products, tar, automotive chemicals, fluorescent bulbs, smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, computer monitors, and more.  Wow, who knew we live with so much hazardous stuff hanging around the house?

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