National Battery Day: Did You Know It’s Dangerous to Throw Batteries Away?

batteries

Batteries: A standardized and portable source of power that can bring electricity anywhere you want to go. From starting your car in the morning to powering a flashlight during an unexpected power outage, their convenience is undeniable. However, batteries can also be very dangerous if not disposed of properly. Here is what you need to know.

Batteries, especially the lithium-ion rechargeable type that come in most portable electronics, pose a very serious fire risk when disposed of improperly. When batteries end up at a trash or recycling facility they often get punctured or crushed, which can damage the separation between the cathode and anode, causing them to catch fire or explode. These fires can have devastating consequences, such as the fire at San Mateo’s Materials Recovery Facility in 2016, which burned the entire plant to the ground. Batteries — and devices that contain them — need to be disposed of as e-waste or hazardous waste so they can be carefully handled to prevent these fires.

In addition to the fire danger, batteries can also contain toxic chemicals, including lithium, cadmium, sulfuric acid and lead. If disposed of improperly, these toxic chemicals can leach into the soil and contaminate the groundwater.

For these reasons, it is illegal to put batteries in the garbage or mix them in with the rest of your recycling. Luckily, recycling batteries is easy. Follow these links to our Recycling Guide to find out how to easily dispose of each type of battery.

When storing used batteries prior to recycling, please use caution to keep batteries from short-circuiting, overheating or sparking. For lithium-ion batteries, place each individual battery in a separate clear plastic bag. For all other household batteries, use clear packing tape, electrical tape or duct tape to tape the ends of the batteries to prevent battery ends from touching one another or striking against metal surfaces, then place the batteries in a clear plastic bag. Avoid storing batteries in a metal container.

Looking to save some money? Try using rechargeable batteries in place of single-use alkaline batteries. Rechargeable batteries will work in almost all the same applications, provide similar battery life, and can be recharged hundreds of times — making them far more cost-effective and eco-friendly than single-use batteries. Just make sure to use single-use batteries for emergency devices such as smoke detectors.

Happy National Battery Day!