Batteries can’t be tossed in your regular recycling bin because they contain highly toxic chemicals — but they shouldn’t be tossed into the trash, either, for the very same reason. Many batteries contain heavy metals like lead and mercury that can easily contaminate our drinking water if left to deteriorate in a landfill. What to do?
Each city handles battery disposal differently, and you should check out your municipal website for specific programs that accept old batteries. But even if your area does not have a battery collection plan, you still have many options:
Household batteries (the usual suspects: AA, AAA, C, D, 9-volt) can be recycled through battery retailers like Batteries Plus. While you save up enough old batteries to make it worth a disposal trip, keep your dead batteries in a dry place that’s out of reach of kids. Put tape over the battery ends (the + and – terminals) to be safe and help prevent battery acid from leaking.
Using rechargeable batteries reduces waste and energy needed for the manufacture and transport of new product… but these types of batteries actually contain even more toxic materials. Therefore, it is extra important that these be recycled and not wind up in landfills. In California, any retailers that sell rechargeable batteries are required to accept used rechargeable batteries for reuse, recycling or disposal.
Car batteries can be recycled at auto shops, and this is normally taken care of for you when you have your battery changed. The average car battery has about 20 pounds of lead acid — fortunately, the lead and the battery’s plastic case are recyclable.
Computer, PDA and cell phone batteries can be returned to the manufacturer for proper disposal, or to your service provider’s store. And if your iPhone’s lithium ion battery is dead, you have to send the whole iPhone back to Apple — and cough up a service fee of $79 plus $6.95 shipping — to get your iPhone up and running again. (Be sure to check out these tips on how to get the most out of your iPhone battery.)