How to Recycle and Properly Dispose of Batteries

How to Recycle and Properly Dispose of Batteries

How to Recycle and Properly Dispose of Batteries
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Recycling batteries is one of the few important activities we could follow to help protect our environment. The environment will benefit greatly if the batteries we use daily don’t end up in landfills where they leak hazardous toxins. Recycling old batteries will not only save the environment, but also help us make new products from the repurposed metal.

The Difference Between Single-use and Rechargeable Batteries

There are two primary types of batteries: primary cells (or single-use batteries), and secondary cells (or rechargeable batteries).

The former term refers to batteries that you can use only once, and they serve no purpose once the battery life is over. Alkali, zinc-carbon, and conventional coal are the usual primary components that make up a primary cell. These cells are manufactured in various sizes, the commonly recognizable ones being AA, AAA, C, D, 9-volt, and button cells (watch batteries). You can find these batteries in flashlights, clocks, TV remotes, and other smaller devices and toys.

The term “secondary cells” refers to batteries that can be recharged any number of times, regardless of how many times you use them. Most secondary cells are made of lithium-ion (Li-On), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), and nickel-cadmium (NiCd). These types of batteries are named based on the materials they are made of. For instance, you may have heard of Li-On, NiMH, NiCd, and NiZn batteries. You can find them in phones, cars, laptops, and many other devices.

How to Dispose of Single-use Batteries

If improperly disposed of, spent single-use batteries are especially prone to releasing toxic chemicals. That said, you can throw these batteries into the trash can, but recycling them is always the better alternative. However, if you still want to discard them, that’s fine too. As they are composed of materials that are less toxic than those used in rechargeable batteries, throwing them into the garbage will not result in very hazardous consequences. 

In some parts of Canada and the world, it’s illegal to dispose of spent primary cells in a trash bin. So, recycling is the only option. Here’s how you can recycle single-use batteries: 

  1. Contact your local government representative or the municipal authorities to find out if there’s a spent battery collection program around the area you live in.
  2. Search online for battery recycling centers closest to you that accept spent single-use batteries. 
  3. Check for a mail-in battery recycling program that suits your recycling needs. Most of these programs offer battery collection containers to help you easily manage the whole process.

How to Dispose of Rechargeable Batteries

As the name suggests, rechargeable batteries have quite long use lives, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be recycled. In fact, you should always recycle them because of their heavy metal content, which is extremely hazardous to the environment once the discarded batteries start leaking in the landfill. The disposal process for these batteries is the same as that for spent single-use batteries. Additionally, because you can’t recycle old secondary cells at all recycling centers, home improvement or office supply stores that do accept them are your best bet.

Remember, some secondary cells can’t be recycled with their parent unit. For example, a laptop and its battery are considered as two separate recyclable units. On the other hand, a phone and its battery can be placed in the same recycling box.

Preparing Your Batteries for Recycling

There are a few important safety reasons behind the whole preparation process to be followed before you drop your old or spent batteries off for recycling. Make sure that you follow these important steps to prevent any undesirable situations, such as battery leakage and electrocuting yourself. All spent batteries must be safely prepared for recycling as explained below:

  1. Place tape on both terminals, or wrap the batteries individually in plastic bags. You have a few choices when it comes to tape; you can use clear packing, electrical, or duct tape. Each option will prevent leakage and ensure maximum safety.
  2. Make sure that you don’t store the batteries in direct sunlight. Exposing batteries to hot temperatures could lead to accidents. Also, always avoid placing the batteries in metal containers since they conduct electricity. So, using plastic containers is ideal.

If you spot a bulging battery, it’s crucial that you don’t throw it in the bin. Instead, place it in a non-flammable environment containing material such as sand or kitty litter. Call a professional repair technician as soon as you can for further instructions.

Conclusion and Recommendations

To summarize, recycling batteries can significantly protect the environment we live in. Primary cells are made up of less toxic materials compared to secondary cells, which are made from heavy metals. Both single-use and rechargeable batteries have similar recycling processes, except that some secondary cells need to be removed from their devices before they can be recycled. 

You should check whether throwing spent batteries in the trash bin is permitted in your province, since a large part of Canada enforces battery recycling laws. If battery recycling is available, always follow the preparation process carefully to avoid undesirable situations and stay as safe as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it against the law to throw away single-use batteries?

It is against the law in many countries around the world to throw away single-use batteries. In Canada, however, this is illegal in some provinces only. The full list of territories that forbid discarding spent batteries in the garbage is available online.

Why should we recycle rechargeable batteries but not single-use batteries?

Rechargeable batteries are made of heavy metals, which are a lot more hazardous for the environment, and hence, it’s important to always recycle them. Even so, recycling spent batteries of all types (single-use and rechargeable) is recommended, since it’s possible to extract the metals the batteries are made of and repurpose them for other uses.


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