From flashlights to cell phones to hybrid cars, battery power has become an everyday essential for most Americans. Annually, more than three billion household batteries are sold in the United States, producing more than 125,000 tons of waste. Many batteries still contain toxic materials such as mercury and cadmium, which pose a threat to human health and the environment if not disposed of properly.
Seattle residents, here are some guidelines to help identify and dispose of your household batteries:
Alkaline, AA, AAA, C, D, 9v
Common Uses: Flashlights, toys, remotes, and portable electronic devices.
In response to environmental concerns, manufacturers have eliminated over 98% of the mercury previously used in batteries. Alkaline batteries are now considered a low environmental risk and may be disposed of in the garbage.
But before tossing your spent batteries in the trash, consider dropping them off at one of the Seattle area businesses that accept alkaline batteries for recycling. When batteries are recycled heavy metals are recovered and plastics are reused. Use King County’s What Do I Do With...? directory to find a drop-off location near you.
Mercury, zinc, silver oxide
Common Uses: Watches, hearing aids, digital thermometers, calculators.
These small, round button-shaped batteries contain hazardous materials and are not allowed in the garbage. Take them to a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Facility or to the “Wastemobile” for free disposal. You may be able to recycle where you shop – ask you local jeweler, pharmacy or hearing aid retailer if they accept these batteries for recycling.
Nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, lithium ion
Common Uses: Cell phones, laptops, cordless tools, digital cameras, remote controlled toys.
Take it Back Network recyclers accept rechargeable batteries as well as cell phones, laptop computers, and various other household electronics.
Wet-cell, lead & sulfuric acid
Car batteries are hazardous waste and are not allowed in the garbage.
According to the EPA, over 90% of lead-acid batteries are recycled. Most states require all motor vehicle battery retailers to accept spent batteries back for recycling. Thanks to these programs, typical lead-acid batteries contain 60% - 80% recycled material.
In Seattle, you can take your used motor vehicle batteries to any Seattle-King County HHW Facility. Big Wheel Auto Parts, Budget Batteries, CARQUEST Auto Parts, Firestone and Interstate Batteries all accept motor vehicle batteries for recycling. Visit King County’s What Do I Do With…? directory or call 206.296.4692 for a complete listing.
Businesses, schools, and households can take advantage of convenient mail-in battery recycling programs. These programs allow you to collect batteries over time and send them in all at once. You can purchase recycling kits from businesses such as Battery Solutions and Big Green Box. Recycling kits typically include a collection box or pail and prepaid shipping.
Concerns over safety risks associated with transporting spent batteries recently resulted in stricter governmental regulations. Safely ship your batteries by following all packing and shipping instructions.
Buy batteries with fewer hazardous components, such as zinc-air batteries instead of mercury buttons.
Buy reusable batteries. After the initial investment in batteries and charger, rechargeable batteries will be much less expensive than repeatedly purchasing single-use batteries. The latest NiMH rechargeable batteries are charged and ready to use, right out of the package and hold their charge much longer than traditional rechargeable batteries.
Sources: Earth911.com | Battery Solutions | Environmental Protection Agency Battery Stewardship Program | Universal Waste Environmental Fact Sheet | King County Battery Recycle Locator | Seattle Times EcoConsumer | Recoverable Resources/Boro Bronx 2000, Inc.