Batteries (Household) - Reduce Reuse and Recycle

Resources for reducing, reusing, and recycling household battery waste.

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About Household Batteries

Each year, over 3 billion dry-cell household batteries are purchased in the United States.  While handy, household batteries can contain heavy metals, such as cadmium, lead, lithium, mercury, nickel, silver, and zinc.  If improperly disposed of, buried in landfills, or incinerated, these could harm the environment by leaching into surface water or groundwater, or escaping into the air and soil.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, consumer batteries contribute more mercury and cadmium to municipal solid waste than any other source.

Long-term exposure to heavy metals can lead to serious health problems.  Cadmium can cause lung, circulatory system, or reproductive system damage.  Mercury can damage the brain, kidneys, or fetuses, as well as cause genetic, neurological, or psychological disorders.  Cadmium, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, and zinc have each been linked to cancer, developmental disorders, and immune deficiency.

If you are unsure of the type of batteries powering your electronics, check the label.  The Battery Act of 1996 requires that rechargeable batteries containing cadmium, lead, and mercury be labeled for recycling.  Additionally, this law phased out the use of mercury in batteries.  The exception is button batteries, which can still contain up to 25mg of mercury.  These are also made with silver or lithium, and need to be recycled.

Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling Batteries

Reduce

  • For items that use AAA, AA, C, or D size batteries, purchase rechargeable batteries and a charger. Rechargeables last longer, reduce waste, save you money, and are readily recyclable.
  • Check to see if you already have enough batteries before buying more. Batteries can loose their charge if stored too long.
  • Use solar products where possible.
  • When suitable, choose hand-operated over battery-operated items.
  • Plug into AC/DC when you can.
  • Get the most out of each battery:
    • Follow the charging guidelines provided by the manufacturer.
    • Never return a fully-charged battery to the charger for an extra boost. This may shorten the life of the battery.
    • Let a discharged battery cool to room temperature before recharging.
    • Recharge batteries only when they are near to fully discharged.

Reuse

Invest in rechargeable batteries. Over its useful life, each rechargeable battery may substitute for hundreds of single-use batteries. And, all rechargeable batteries are recyclable. While they may cost more up front, they'll save money in the long run because they last longer than disposables.

Recycle

Recycling keeps heavy metals out of landfills and conserves natural resources.

Rechargeable Battery Recycling

The locations listed below accept any of the following rechargeable batteries for recycling (check labels to determine if your rechargeable battery has a chemistry accepted for recycling):
  • Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd)
  • Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH)
  • Lithium Ion (LI-ion)
  • Nickel Zinc (Ni-Zn)
  • Small Sealed Lead * (SSPb)
    • * Up to 11 pounds per battery

archCity of St. Louis Refuse Division
Fax:  314.352.5627     Phone:  314.622.4800 (Citizens' Service Bureau)
Mail:  4100 South First Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63118

archFastenal
Fax:  314.772.3213     Phone:  314.772.1620
Mail:  2208 South Vandeventer, St. Louis, Missouri 63110

arch Green Earth Battery Recycling
Phone:  314.718.1776
Email:  melissa@greenearthbr.com
Accepted Materials:  Both rechargeable and non-rechargeable dry-cell batteries designed primarily for household use in items such as remote controls, cameras, toys, watches, flashlights, smoke alarms, etc. Green Earth Battery Recycling is a full-service provider: they supply the container and pick it up when full.

archHome Depot
Phone:  314.865.0700
Mail:  3202 South Kingshighway, St. Louis, Missouri 63139
Note:  Drop off batteries at the "Tools" department.

archLowe's
Phone:  314.450.2140
Mail:  932 Loughborough, St. Louis, Missouri 63139

archOffice Depot
Phone:  314.531.3289
Mail:  4061 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63108
Phone:  314.351.5525
Mail:  4928 Christy Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63116

archOffice Max
Phone:  314.772.3089
Mail:  4617 Chippewa Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63116

archP.M. Electric Company
Fax:  314.353.5860     Phone:  314.351.4550
Mail:  5280 Fyler Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63139

archRadioShack
Phone:  314.534.2910
Mail:  4135 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63108
Phone:  314.353.6897
Mail:  4220 South Broadway, St. Louis, Missouri 63111
Phone:  314.776.2830
Mail:  3511 Bamberger Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63116
Phone:  314.351.0203
Mail:  3517 Hampton Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63139

archSt. Louis Electronics - Wireless USA
Fax:  314.535.7850     Phone:  314.535.3737
Mail:  4017 Chouteau Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63110

archTarget
Phone:  314.481.9100
Mail:  4255 Hampton Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63109

archU.S. Cellular
Phone:  314.457.8751
Mail:  4624 Hampton Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63109

archVerizon Wireless
Phone:  314.773.3544
Mail:  4647 Chippewa Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63116

Additionally:
The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation partners with many national retailers.  Check for the logo on the back of rechargeable batteries and go to www.rbrc.com to find a location nearest you.

 

Non-Rechargeable Battery Recycling

Non-rechargeable, or primary batteries, such as alkaline and carbon-zinc types, make up 80% of dry-cell batteries sold each year.  While primary batteries may cost less up front, the need to replace them more frequently than rechargeable (which can be used 100-1000 times) ends up costing more.  Many stores sell rechargeable AA, AAA, C, and D size batteries, as well as chargers, which will reduce waste and save money in the long run.

Alkaline batteries contain manganese dioxide, graphite, steel, and zinc.  Because the cost of recycling non-rechargeable batteries exceeds the value of the materials that would be recovered, fees must be charged to make recycling them economically feasible.

Once collected, the batteries are shredded and neutralized in an acid bath.  The material then runs through a kiln to be dried and pressed into magnetic bricks.  The bricks are transported to a steel mill for processing.  In the furnace of the steel mill, zinc is fumed off into a vacuum baghouse, recovered, and sold as zinc-oxide.  Manganese dioxide becomes an alloy in the production of re-bar steel.

Options for recycling non-rechargeable (primary) batteries include:

Battery Solutions, Inc.
Phone:  800.852.8127     Fax:  248.446.1927
Mail:  7266 Kensington Road, Brighton, Michigan 48116
  • Batteries Recycled:  Alkaline, Zinc Carbon, buttons, and all rechargeable household batteries.
  • Fees:  $0.85 per pound, plus shipping.
EasyPak
Phone:  888.640.6700     Fax:  866.909.6725
Mail:  2000 South 25th Avenue, Suite C, Broadview, Illinois 60155
  • Batteries Recycled:  Alkaline, Nickel, Cadmium, Ni-MH, Iron, Zinc Carbon, and Silver.
  • Fees:  $94.00 for a 55-pound capacity bucket, including shipping and handling.
Green Earth Battery Recycling
Web: www.greenearthbr.com 
Phone: 314.718.1776 
Email: melissa@greenearthbr.com 
Accepted Materials: Both rechargeable and non-rechargeable dry-cell batteries designed primarily for household use in items such as remote controls, cameras, toys, watches, flashlights, smoke alarms, etc. Green Earth Battery Recycling is a full-service provider: they supply the container, and pick it up when full.

The Big Green Box
Phone:  877.461.2345     Fax:  740.653.2320
Mail:  125 East Commercial Street, Suite A, Anaheim, California 92801
  • Batteries Recycled:  Alkaline, Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Lead, Silver, Mercury, Lithium.
  • Fees:  $58.00 for a 40-pound capacity box, shipping and handling included.
Think Green From Home (a service of Waste Management, Inc.)
  • Batteries Recycled:  Alkalines, button cells, and rechargeables.
  • Fees:  $16.95 kit includes box and pre-paid return shipping label (when the box is full, seal it and place by your mailbox for postal pickup).

Battery Terminology

Dry cell - The electrolytes in dry cell batteries are in the form of a paste, not a liquid.  They include alkaline and carbon zinc (9-volt, D, C, AA, AAA), mercuric-oxide (button, some cylindrical and rectangular), silver-oxide and zinc-air (button), and lithium (9-volt, C, AA, coin, button, rechargeable).

Wet cell - They contain a liquid electrolyte.  Batteries included in this category are lead-acid automobile, boat, and motorcycle batteries, as well as batteries that power emergency lighting, alarm systems, and industrial equipment.

Primary - Refer to single-use, disposable batteries.

Secondary - A battery that is rechargeable.

Both dry cell and wet cell batteries can be primary or secondary.

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