If you have a drawer filled with sticky, grimy old batteries and you don’t know what to do with them, it’s officially time you learn about where to recycle old batteries. Likely, you keep your decaying batteries in one place because you have no idea what to do with them, and are scared to touch them because for some reason, they’re covered in a mystery film that your instincts tell you is not safe to touch. If it was also your instinct that tossing something as vial as a melted old battery in your trash will only increase the amount of hideous things in landfills, good on you.
But before you head to the recycling station, you’ll need to sort things out. If it’s a battery that you popped out of your TV remote or flashlight, it’s called a single-use home battery. If its a battery that you extracted from a cell phone, computer, or a cordless tool or accessory, it’s a rechargeable battery. There is a right way and a wrong way to dispose of old batteries, and unfortunately, if you accidentally pick the wrong way, the planet has to pay for it. Getting rid of single-use home batteries is a different process than getting rid of a rechargeable battery, so here’s how to deal with both, properly.
If you don’t live in the state California, you might legally be able to throw your batteries in the trash, but that doesn’t mean you should. Why? Because you can recycle them and that’s much better for the planet. If you talk to your local waste department, they might tell you that alkaline batteries are safe to put in the trash, and that’s technically true, due to the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act(passed in 1996) that stopped use of mercury in alkaline batteries, making them less problematic when disposed in landfills. But just because they won’t cause catastrophic complications at the landfill, doesn’t mean you should send them there in the first place. General rule of recycling thumb: if you can avoid sending things to the landfills, you should.
To find a recycling facility near you, check out Earth911’s Recycling Search. Alternatively, Battery Solutions and Call2Recycle both offer options for recycling alkaline batteries in the mail, so that you don’t even have to leave the house to do something good for the planet — or at least stop yourself from making the planet worse.
Not only are rechargeable batteries recyclable, but it typically costs you no money to do so. There are programs and organizations all across the country that provide free recycling services. Most home improvement and office supply stores like Lowes, Home Depot, Staples, and more, have recycling drop boxes that allow you to drop off your rechargeable batteries at no cost.
If you want to get rid of a rechargeable electronic like old computer, you should donate it to a second hand store before putting it in the trash. But if for some reason your computer is more than gently used and not likely salvageable, make sure you dispose of it responsibly. There are so many amazing companies that recycle, reuse and repurpose electronics in the most creatives ways. For example, Nikki Reed partnered with Dell to create stunning jewelry from recycled computers, proving that there’s always a solution to sending something to a landfill.