How to Recycle Alkaline Batteries

Remote controls, radios, clocks, children toys and now even in touchless faucets and keyboards; alkaline batteries (AA, AAA, C, D) have been and will continue to be commonplace in our society. The next time you’re using your remote control to change the channel, stop and think a little about how these batteries work. Using metals and chemical reactions, batteries convert chemical energy to electrical energy to provide power to our electronic devices. But where do these chemicals and metals come from? Where will they go when you’re done with them?

Metals used in batteries are mined from the earth, with steel and zinc being the main metallic components of alkaline batteries. In 1996 the Mercury Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act passed in the United States that phased out the use of mercury in alkaline batteries. With this and other developments over the past few decades, proven cost effective and environmentally safe recycling processes are not yet universally available for alkaline batteries. Except in the state of California, alkaline batteries are currently considered “safe” for general refuse and can go directly from your trash can to a landfill. Many of us take advantage of this and dispose of our A, AA, C, and D batteries from devices around our house routinely in the trash can.

The next time you go to dispose of an alkaline battery in the trash can, please think of this: alkaline batteries account for 80% of the manufacturer batteries in the US and over 10 billion individual units produced worldwide. Add up the disposal of all of these batteries to our landfills over the years and think of the natural resources (steel, zinc, etc.) that can be saved. Think of the potential unreacted chemicals being put into our landfills, into the ground, and into our waterways.

All of this got me thinking: what can I do to make a difference? I noticed my work had recycling options for many battery types, such as batteries used in cell phones or laptops, but not for alkaline batteries. Due to this, a few years ago I started collecting the alkaline batteries my co-workers and I used at work and the batteries my family used at home. As my battery stockpile exceeded a few hundred I searched for places to take these batteries to for recycling and kept getting the same answer: “You can just put those in the trash”. Recently, I found what I was looking for: The Naperville household hazardous waste drop-off facility is a regional drop off location approved by the IEPA and DuPage County for many hazardous materials, including alkaline batteries. It is open every Saturday and Sunday from 9am-2pm, excluding holidays.

Consider collecting alkaline batteries at your house, along with other hazardous items, to take to this facility for recycling or see if the hazardous waste drop off area in your village will take alkaline batteries. Every little bit each of us can do will make a difference!

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