Batteries (Household) - Reduce Reuse and Recycle
Resources for reducing, reusing, and recycling household battery waste.
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.
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.
Reducing Battery Waste
- 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.
- 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.
- Batteries Recycled: Alkaline, Zinc Carbon, buttons, and all rechargeable household batteries.
- Fees: $0.85 per pound, plus shipping.
- Batteries Accepted:
- Rechargeable Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd)
- Rechargeable Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH)
- Rechargeable Lithium Ion (Li-ion)
- Rechargeable Small Sealed Lead (Pb) batteries weighing less than 2 pounds
- Fees: none
- Included: collection boxes (with plastic bags for each battery);pre-paid, pre-addressed shipping labels.plastic bags for each battery);pre-paid, pre-addressed shipping labels.
- 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.
Mail: 2208 South Vandeventer, St. Louis, Missouri 63110
Office Depot Office Max
- Accepts all batteries!
- Batteries Recycled: Alkaline, Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Lead, Silver, Mercury, Lithium.
- Fees: $58.00 for a 40-pound capacity box, shipping and handling included.
- 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).
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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