How to Dispose of Dry Cell Batteries

Dry cell batteries contain a variety of toxic metals.

Identify and Dispose

These batteries can also leak or burst, exposing caustic chemicals. Toxic compounds found in dry cell batteries include lithium, mercury, silver, lead, nickel, manganese, cadmium and lead. These metals will leach into groundwater supplies if dumped in a landfill and batteries should be recycled whenever possible. Stores that sell batteries and designated toxic waste collection facilities are the best places to dispose of dry cell batteries.

Read the label on the battery or battery packaging. This will identify the type of toxin in the battery. Typical alkaline batteries (AAA, AA, C, D and other sizes) contain manganese. Camera and watch "button" batteries may contain mercury--this is probably the most toxic type of battery. Some recyclable power tool batteries contain lead. Carbon zinc batteries are not considered toxic except in California. These can normally be thrown out in household trash, but recycling them is still preferable. Check local and state regulations.

Locate a recycling center. Most stores that sell batteries or products that contain batteries will accept spent batteries for recycling. Check with your local recycling center to make sure they take the type of battery you are recycling. Store and transport spent batteries so that they don't short out and cause a fire or explosion hazard. Place masking tape over the terminals and avoid allowing the battery contacts to meet.

Dispose at a dump--do not incinerate. Large quantities of batteries that are classified as non-toxic and cannot be recycled should be taken to a dump when local and state regulations will allow. Attendants at the dump should be informed of the quantity and type of batteries. Batteries containing toxic compounds should not be incinerated because that can cause the toxins to become airborne.

Handle leaking batteries with care. Use nitrile gloves to place a leaking battery in a sealable plastic bag. Put masking tape over the terminals for extra safety. Isolate a leaking battery from other batteries to avoid fire or explosion hazard, and wash your hands when you are finished.

Things You Will Need

  • Battery label
  • Recycling center

Tip

  • It is legal to dispose of alkaline flashlight batteries in household trash in many areas, but it is always better to recycle when possible. Never incinerate batteries.

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