We use batteries almost everywhere in our day-to-day lives--telephones, cordless tools, automobiles, toys, cameras and dozens of other applications--and they all run out of juice eventually. Some used batteries can be disposed of safely as household trash, but others contain toxic heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury that damage the environment, and potentially our health, when incinerated or put into landfills. Read this article to learn about the different types of batteries and the best ways to dispose of them.
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Take lead-acid motor vehicle batteries to an auto battery dealer or to a metal recycler. Everything that makes up a car battery (lead, plastic, sulfuric acid) can be recycled but burning or burying them pollutes the air and groundwater and is illegal in most states.
Carry sealed lead-acid batteries to a recycling center or to a hazardous waste collection site. These smaller, plastic-encased lead-acid batteries are used in lawn equipment, power tools, wheelchairs and alarm systems.
Place carbon zinc cells in the household trash. These common, one-use "flashlight" or "transistor radio" batteries are usually labeled heavy-duty, alkaline or all-purpose. Rechargeable nickel metal hydride and alkaline manganese batteries can also be thrown away.
Bring button batteries used in watches and hearing aids and nickel-cadmium batteries to a hazardous waste collection site. Some recycling centers will also accept them.
Check local electronics, cell phone and department stores to learn if they'll accept used batteries. Click the battery recycling link in Resources to find recyclers in your area and learn which batteries they'll accept.
Recycle all batteries if you live in California. State laws make battery recycling mandatory in California (see link in Resources).