How to Dispose of Old Batteries

Q: I have a ton of old batteries at home, AA, AAA 9V, etc. Is there any way to recycle these? Is it bad for the environment if I just chuck them?

A: Yes to your first question and it depends to your second. If you think about it, batteries are part of just about everything in our daily lives ó cellphone, cordless phone, camera, flashlight, iPod, computer, car … you get the idea ó and they’re helpful for living life on the go. But many batteries contain harmful metals and chemicals that can leak into our air and water supply when they are dumped into the trash. Since you asked about household batteries, letís narrow our discussion down to those.

Single-use batteries (like the kind you pick up at the drugstore or the supermarket checkout aisle) are usually alkaline batteries. They do contain some mercury, but the amount has been steadily reduced since 1984. As Americans, we throw away about 180,000 tons of batteries per year. Thatís a lot of batteries. But I totally get it, especially now that I have a baby. I canít believe how difficult it is to find more than a handful of toys that donít require batteries.

Though theyíre not as hazardous as they used to be, single-use batteries should still be recycled and not thrown out, as there are potential hazards that can arise from leaks. Many rechargeable batteries, on the other hand, contain cadmium, which can be particularly hazardous to the environment and to people should it leak in a landfill or go through an incinerator.

Unfortunately, batteries usually don’t get picked up in curbside recycling collection, so you have to do a little legwork to find out when and where you can recycle them. For example, where I live, you can drop off single-use alkaline batteries at the household hazardous waste facilityís drop off day, which happens only twice a year. So while I can recycle them, I also need to keep them in my basement in a box until drop-off day comes around ó never fun for someone who likes to purge, purge, purge … garbage, of course.

You have more recycling options when it comes to the more toxic rechargeable batteries, thanks to the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act. Nowadays, you can drop off these batteries at most Staples or RadioShack locations. These and other retailers have partnered with Call2Recycle, a free rechargeable battery and cell phone collection organization (thatís right, you can drop off your old Motorola Razr there, too). Recycled batteries are melted and broken down into their component metals, which are then repurposed into new batteries or steel.

What if you have a load of batteries to get rid of? Sites like and will ship you their battery recycling boxes (for a fee) to collect all of your batteries, regardless of type, and send you a prepaid shipping label to send them back once your box is full.

For more types of batteries (such as lithium-ion or lead acid or even your car battery) and where you can recycle them, check out the helpful information provided by Earth911.

ó Chanie

Related Articles:
How to recycle your cell phone

11 clean tech innovations
More advice columns from Chanie Kirschner

By Chanie Kirschner


Danuta W
Danuta W1 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Dominque C.
Dominque C5 years ago

I tried and and they both charge for the battery box. Does anyone know of a site that does not charge for this service?

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Krista R.
Krista R7 years ago

I think they need to make it easier for everyone to recycle the, especially average alkaline batteries. The average person doesn't care enough to do the research. Hopefully one day it will be easier and more people will care.

Cath Bono
Kate A7 years ago

I can't find a battery recycling area in my town, but my town barely recyc;es anything

Daisy K.
Daisy K7 years ago

Our complex has a 'drop spot' for old batteries and they are then taken to a local recycle depot.

Sanjeev R.
Sanjeev R7 years ago

Why dont they make the places that sell the batteries collect them for recycling too.(walmart, kmart and such)

Angelica P.
Angelica P7 years ago

Good article.

Melissa Verduzco
.7 years ago

Nice article, thank you!!!