Battery recycling is important because batteries contain heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium and nickel. Though no one battery creates a big problem, altogether we use – and throwaway – millions of batteries every year. In fact, household batteries, especially alkaline and button batteries, are the single largest source of mercury – which has been linked to brain damage, kidney failure, and genetic disorders when fetuses are exposed in utero – in our trash.
What Can You Do? First, Buy Fewer Batteries
* Choose electricity over battery power – When possible, choose appliances, toys and gear that can be re-charged electrically, rather than via a battery. Many parents don’t buy battery-operated toys for their kids anymore. In our house, we no longer use battery-powered radios, shavers, kitchen appliances or electronics that require batteries. If we can’t power it ourselves or plug it in, we don’t buy it.
* Buy rechargeable batteries – Green Batteries offers many different types of rechargeable batteries, rechargers, and other accessories. Solio recharges batteries using power from the sun. USB Cell makes AAA batteries that recharge in your computer. You’ll also find recharge-ables at Home Depot, Lowes, Wal Mart, Target and your local hardware store. NOTE: Make sure you give yourself enough time to fully charge the battery before use so that you get the most out of every charge. And remember: rechargeables still contain heavy metals and need to be recycled eventually.
* Turn off battery-powered appliances when you’re not using them to extend the life of the battery. You can even remove the batteries if you’re not going to use the appliance for a long period of time.
Battery Recycling Online
The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) can help you recycle your used portable rechargeable batteries and old cell phones. Rechargeable batteries are commonly found in cordless power tools, cellular and cordless phones, laptop computers, camcorders, digital cameras, and remote control toys.
Battery Solutions, Inc. provides downloadable instructions so you can recycle a wide variety of batteries, including those found in cell phones, laptop computers, flashlights, cameras, watches, hearing aids, toys, two way radios, electric tools, clocks, and other electronic devices.
If you want to recycle your batteries closer to home, Earth 911 can help you find a place nearby.
Many communities organize a toxic waste collection once or twice a year. I used to keep my old batteries in a can or paper bag in my shed so it was easy to store them until pick-up day.