Because of the potential impact of battery waste on human health and the environment, some countries & groups want more battery recycling, and less batteries going to landfills.
In the guide below, we look at some of the relevant factors relating to battery waste, how batteries are disposed of, and how batteries can be recycled.
Summary – Recycling & Disposing Of Batteries
Different Types Of Batteries
There’s a number of different types of batteries that get used across society, ranging from car batteries, to rechargeable phone and laptop batteries, to single use alkaline batteries.
Each of these different types of batteries are not only made of different metals and chemicals, but have different uses, different potential to be recycled, and a different potential impact on the environment and human health.
We list the different battery types in the guide below.
How Many Batteries Are Thrown Away Annually?
Some reports indicate that about 3 billion batteries are thrown away in the US per year.
In the US, one report indicates that majority of these batteries are single use alkaline batteries (as opposed to rechargeable batteries)
How Battery Waste Is Regulated & Managed In Different Countries & Regions
It’s important to check the laws and regulations on battery disposal in different geographic areas – they can differ from place to place i.e. between different countries, States and regions
Different cities also have different battery recycling programs set up to dispose, drop off or recycle batteries. These programs vary in ease and convenience to use. Some cities don’t have battery recycling programs available right now
Finding Out How To Dispose Of, Or Recycle Batteries In Your Area
An online search can done for battery disposal in your city or town
First, do a search for any laws and regulations of battery disposal (i.e. what is legal)
You can then do a search for recycling programs in your area (e.g. where to recycle batteries in Melbourne), and find instructions on where and how to drop off batteries to the relevant recycling organisation
Some initiatives and battery collection services are free, whilst others are private services that are paid.
For example, in Australia, some supermarkets and stores currently have free drop for recycling of AA, AAA, C, D and 9V batteries (rechargeable and non rechargeable).
Which Batteries Are Recycled The Most?
Right now, some batteries are recycled more than others
As two examples, lead–acid automotive batteries (nearly 90% are recycled) and button cells (because of the value and toxicity of their chemicals) might be recycled more than other batteries in some countries
Which Batteries Aren’t Recycled At High Rates?
Currently, only about 5% of lithium ion batteries are recycled in some countries
Challenges With Recycling Batteries
Several reports say that it’s difficult to make alkaline battery recycling cost neutral or profitable.
We list some other potential challenges when recycling batteries in the guide below
The Different Types Of Batteries
Batteries can be categorised differently depending on the metals and chemicals they contain, what they are used for, and more.
Some of the different batteries include …
Single Use vs Rechargeable Batteries
Single-use batteries are usually alkaline batteries with Zinc, Manganese or Lithium chemistry.
Rechargeable batteries are commonly Nickel Cadmium, Nickel Metal Hydride or Lithium Ion.
Rechargeable batteries are found in the same shapes and voltage as single-use batteries, as well as specifically designed for laptops, mobile phones and electronic equipment.
Battery Types Based On Metals Found In The Batteries
Lead Acid Batteries – usually found in cars and forklifts
Nickel Cadmium Batteries – usually found in power tools
Zinc Based Batteries – usually found in domestic items
Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries – usually found in mobile phones
Lithium Ion Batteries – usually found in laptops
recycle-more.co.uk outlines more about the different battery types, and what uses they have in their resource
According wikipedia.org, batteryuniversity.com and batterysolutions.com:
Lead Acid, Nickel Cadmium (NiCd), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), Primary Lithium, Lithium Ion (Li-ion), Alkaline, Mercury Oxide, Silver Oxide, Zinc Carbon, Zinc Air
Read more about the metal and chemical composition of different battery types (what is in them) at in the wikipedia.org resource
There’s also newer batteries like electric vehicle batteries to consider
How Many Batteries Are Thrown Away Each Year?
Battery waste in the US is in the billions of batteries per year, and, it appears that majority of battery waste is single use alkaline batteries in the US each year.
… each year Americans throw away more than three billion batteries … [which is] about 180,000 tons of batteries.
More than 86,000 tons of these are single use alkaline batteries [… and] About 14,000 tons [are] rechargeable batteries …
Why Might It Be Important To Recycle Batteries?
For various reasons such as:
– Recovering resources and materials from batteries, such as from EV batteries
– Some batteries are also used for secondary uses after their primary use lifespan comes to an end, and this is another form of recycling which can increase the sustainability footprint of the battery by helping lower it’s waste rate
batterysolutions.com outlines the materials they recover from batteries in their resource
recycle-more.co.uk outlines the materials they recover from batteries, and potential uses of recycled batteries or recovered materials from batteries in their resource
There are a wide range of battery types, many of which contain toxic metals such as cadmium, mercury and lead.
Others contain valuable materials like magnesium and zinc.
Used rechargeable batteries are a hazardous waste and should not be placed in the garbage bin. This includes batteries in laptops, mobile phones, power tools and cameras.
Which Batteries Can Be Recycled?
Lead acid and button cell batteries might be widely recycled in some countries
Individual organisations might have the capability to recycle other batteries too
Most types of batteries can be recycled
[In addition to lead-acid and also button cell batteries …] Rechargeable nickel–cadmium (Ni-Cd), nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH), lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel–zinc (Ni-Zn), can … be recycled.
batterysolutions.com lists that they the recycle the following batteries:
Lead Acid, Alkaline, Lithium Ion, Nickel Cadmium (NiCd), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), Lithium, Mercury, Zinc Carbon, Zinc Air.
batteryuniversity.com lists the types of batteries that can be recycled in their resource
Which Batteries Are Recycled At The Highest Rates?
… some batteries are recycled more readily than others, such as lead–acid automotive batteries (nearly 90% are recycled) and button cells (because of the value and toxicity of their chemicals) (wikipedia.org)
Which Batteries Are Recycled At Lower Rates?
Right now, it’s estimated that as few as 5% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled (evrater.com)
How Are Batteries Recycled?
batterysolutions.com and batteryuniversity.com both describe more about how batteries can be recycled in their resources
Potential Challenges With Recycling Some Batteries
Cost, profit and making the recycling process economically feasible can be a significant challenge for battery recycling.
There can be other challenges too though, such as practical challenges.
There is currently no cost-neutral recycling option available for disposable alkaline batteries, though consumer disposal guidelines vary by region (wikipedia.org)
Some metals can be hard to separate or recover from some batteries without several processes being carried out (which some recycling facilities may not be able to do, and, these additional processes can be costly too)
In instances where there are specific drop off locations to recycle batteries that individuals have to drive to, some individuals find it easier, and far more convenient to dispose of batteries in other ways.
Where To Drop Off Batteries For Recycling – How To Find Out
Some organisations offer drop off points to recycle batteries, but they differ by country, State and region. So, check yours online.
To find out who recycles batteries in your city, and where to drop off batteries, you can perform an online search similar to this one ‘Battery recycling in [insert your city or town]’, or, ‘Where to recycle batteries in [insert your city or town name]’
Some recycling programs are free, whilst some charge money.
Some information on current recycling programs in some countries or cities are:
Household batteries, and other common batteries can be recycled at biggreenbox.com, and batterysolutions.com
call2recycle.org do rechargeable batteries
Household batteries can be recycled in United Kingdom at council recycling sites as well as at some shops and shopping centres—e.g., Dixons, Currys, The Link and PC World (wikipedia.org)
Used batteries can be sent for recycling by placing them into collection containers that can be found at many retail outlets and other public buildings across the UK.
Compliance schemes, like Valpak which works in partnership with G & P Batteries, collect these boxes and take the batteries away to be recycled.
In NSW for example … there’s battery recycling initiatives
Phone batteries can be recycled through the MobileMuster program
Household alkaline batteries can be disposed of at CleanOut events.
These are held in various locations in NSW on specified dates, usually 9am-3.30pm. This service is free.
Aldi supermarkets offer a free battery recycling service at all their Australian stores. Any brand of AA, AAA, C, D and 9V batteries (both rechargeable and non-rechargeable) are accepted – simply drop your used batteries into the dedicated bins in store.
For other services and for options for different battery types (eg buttons and 12 volts), there’s other waste management options.
If your workplace or business has large quantities of batteries to recycle, visit BusinessRecycling.com.au to find suitable collection or pick up service options.
More Information On Battery Recycling Worldwide, & In Different Countries
Read more about how different countries recycle batteries, the programs set up to recycle batteries, recycling rates, and which batteries they recycle in the wikipedia.org resource
How Different Countries & States Legislate/Regulate Battery Disposal
Check the country or state regulations and laws regarding battery disposal and recycling in your area.
Some countries and states/regions allow alkaline batteries to be thrown away in general/municipal waste because the mercury levels in them have been reduced by manufacturers over the last few decades.
But, other states like California (as we mentioned above) see all batteries as hazardous waste and require them to be disposed of via hazardous waste disposal (unless the battery is recyclable).
Some information on California and Japan as examples includes …
California no longer allows batteries to be disposed of in the trash because they contain toxic metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel (dtsc.ca.gov)
All batteries are considered hazardous waste in California when they are discarded [and] This includes all batteries of sizes AAA, AA, C, D, button cell, 9 Volt, and all other batteries, both rechargeable and single use.
All batteries must be recycled, or taken to a household hazardous waste disposal facility, a universal waste handler (e.g., storage facility or broker), or an authorized recycling facility.
What’s interesting is some countries like Japan (via Wikipedia):
Japan does not have a single national battery recycling law, so the advice given is to follow local and regional statutes and codes in disposing batteries.
The Battery Association of Japan (BAJ) recommends that alkaline, zinc-carbon, and lithium primary batteries can be disposed of as normal household waste
11. https://biggreenbox.com/ , and https://biggreenbox.com/products/battery-recycling-box