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A Guide to Recycling Batteries

Green Tips | December 10, 2020

As the holiday gift-buying season continues, New Yorkers may be replacing batteries in new electronics. Do you know how to recycle your batteries? 

Batteries have been around since the beginning of the nineteenth century, and are a staple of everyday life. A battery is a packaged chemical reaction that converts chemical energy into electrical energy. Unfortunately, many of the chemicals found in batteries are toxic and need to be carefully disposed of. A few toxins found in batteries are ammonium chloride, sodium hydroxide, and potassium hydroxide, all of which are dangerously corrosive. If batteries are improperly disposed of, toxins will seep into the soil, air, and groundwater, heavily polluting the environment. To learn how to properly recycle your old batteries, read this week’s Green Tips.

Non-Rechargeable (Single-Use) Batteries

Single-use alkaline batteries are the most likely type of battery to be encountered when buying batteries (AAA, C, 9V, etc.) at a convenience store. Unlike their rechargeable counterparts, it is not illegal to throw single-use batteries in the garbage in New York. However, many municipalities offer programs to recycle these alkaline batteries. Before chucking them in the garbage, check to see if your municipality has a program for recycling them. We recommend Googling “[name of municipality] alkaline battery disposal.”

Rechargeable Batteries

It is illegal in the state of New York to throw rechargeable batteries in the garbage. These include, but are not limited to, lithium ion, nickel-cadmium, sealed lead, nickel metal hydride, and all other rechargeable dry cell batteries. If improperly disposed of, the materials in these batteries can be even more harmful than those in single-use batteries. Luckily, properly disposing of these batteries is quick and easy: retailers that sell rechargeable batteries are required by state law to accept them for recycling. The most environmentally friendly brand of rechargeable batteries is Energizer, whose “Recharge Universal” batteries are 4% recycled batteries. 

To properly dispose of rechargeable batteries, go to any retailer that sells rechargeable batteries (such as Staples, The Home Depot, Best Buy, Lowes, and CVS) and dispose of either:

  • Up to 10 batteries per day, or
  • As many batteries as you are buying

Even recycled batteries generate some waste. As a result, the fewer batteries we use, the better. Here are a few steps we can take to maximize the lifespan of rechargeable batteries:

  • Avoid overcharging
  • Only charge batteries using manufacturer-recommended chargers
  • Do not mix brands while charging
  • Store batteries at or around 59 °F
  • Store batteries (dead or alive) away from metal to avoid sparking

We hope you enjoyed reading this week’s Green Tips. Stay tuned next week for more environmentally friendly tips!

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