Did you know that Americans buy, use, and dispose of billions of batteries each year? That’s a lot of batteries making their way to the landfill each year.
The problem with that? Batteries aren’t supposed to end up in the trash like that.
Many batteries contain environmentally toxic components made of things like mercury and cadmium. These are harmful to the environment as well as to humans.
But most batteries produced are single-use batteries. So can you recycle batteries? Absolutely, and it’s vital that you do it properly, otherwise, you need to stop using batteries altogether.
Wondering why battery recycling is so important, and how to recycle batteries the right way? Keep reading to find out now.
What are Batteries Made of?
There are many different types of batteries available today. Some of the most popular consumer-grade, single-use batteries are lithium batteries, alkaline and zinc-carbon batteries, and button-cell (coin) batteries.
Other types of batteries include rechargeable batteries which often contain hazardous metals. Automotive batteries also pose a threat, so never put them in the trash or normal recycling bins.
So are batteries safe to throw away? Definitely not. Depending on the types of batteries purchased, they may contain metals such as mercury, nickel, lead, cadmium, and silver, which can be toxic to people and the planet.
On top of that, some batteries use highly limited resources that are important in many different industries. This includes substances like graphite, lithium, and cobalt.
These raw resources are critical when it comes to American manufacturing. There aren’t many known substitutes. Therefore, recycling batteries containing these metals and substances can go a long way to preserving our environment and keeping important substances in circulation longer.
Why You Can’t Throw Batteries In the Trash
One of the biggest reasons not to throw batteries in the trash is because it’s a huge environmental waste problem. With almost 200,000 tons of batteries tossed in the trash each year, it’s enough for a line of trashed batteries to circle the earth multiple times.
This puts a huge strain on our environment and on our landfills, which aren’t going to conceal our trash problems forever. In fact, these single-use batteries make up a significant portion of American’s annual hazardous waste.
Plus, this means a ton of metal is being tossed into a landfill, never to be reused again. If you recycle the batteries, most of these materials could become new products, saving the energy costs of producing raw materials.
Even once a battery dies and is no longer useful in your devices, it can still pose a threat under the wrong circumstances. For example, it might contain enough energy to start a fire. So disposing of batteries correctly is also a matter of safety.
Because batteries are considered hazardous waste, many states have even enacted laws offering or requiring consumers to recycle batteries and companies to offer battery recycling programs.
Can You Recycle Batteries?
Wondering how to dispose of batteries? The only way to do it safely is with proper recycling.
This prevents the release of toxic chemicals and fumes into our air and water supply. It prevents accidental fires, explosions, and saves precious resources.
So which batteries can you recycle, and how can you recycle them?
Batteries to Recycle
As far as safety is concerned, the only acceptable batteries to throw into the trash are alkaline and zinc-carbon batteries. These pose the least environmental threat when it comes to toxic materials.
However, many communities still offer recycling programs for these, since they are some of the most common single-use batteries.
Certain types of rechargeable batteries may not be recyclable. But since they can replace thousands of individual batteries, you don’t have to feel as bad about tossing them after their useful life. However, you can opt for rechargeable batteries that are easily recyclable.
All other types of batteries should be recycled in accordance with local regulations and recycling programs. This includes coin batteries, lithium batteries, and automotive batteries.
Certain programs are available to recycle entire electronics that contain permanent batteries.
How to Recycle Batteries
Are batteries safe to recycle? Yes, but not in your recycling collection bin. They must be sent to the proper collection facility.
This will differ from state to state and city to city. But in general, you may be able to recycle batteries at hardware stores, electronic stores, specialty battery or light bulb stores, municipal hazardous waste disposal sites, and office supply stores.
If you can’t find a nearby recycling program, many companies offer mail-in battery recycling. Most companies only accept certain types of batteries, such as lithium-ion batteries or NiCad battery disposal.
If mailing in batteries to be recycled, shipping costs may be your responsibility. Consider it a tax that supports our environment. It will likely only cost a few dollars, so don’t let that prevent you from recycling hazardous materials.
To make batter recycling more efficient for you, just set up multiple small containers or zip-lock bags at home. As you go throw batteries, just put them in the appropriate container when they are dead.
When your containers fill up, or once a year, you can recycle the batteries all at once.
Using Fewer Batteries
If you’d like to save money and the environment at the same time, there are better options than using dozens and dozens of single-use batteries each year.
Modern rechargeable batteries can often be used up to a thousand times. That’s 1,000 individual batteries you don’t have to buy, meaning you can save a lot of money.
Plus, if you purchase a recyclable rechargeable batter,y it can be recycled after its useful life, for the most responsible life cycle. You can also opt for electronics that have built-in rechargeable batteries, such as those that can be recharged via USB cords.
Be Part of the Solution
So can you recycle batteries? Absolutely, and you should definitely be doing so. In fact, it may even be required by law in your area.
So do yourself a favor and do a quick search to finds the nearest battery recyclers near you. Drop off your collection of used batteries once or twice a year and become part of the solution, rather than the problem.
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