I am on vacation and have not been writing many blog entries lately and need to catch up, so lets start with what we can do about dry-cell battery disposal/recycling.

First lets cover what dry-cell batteries are, they include alkaline and carbon zinc (9-volt, D, C, AA, AAA), mercuric-oxide (button, some cylindrical and rectangular), silver-oxide and zinc-air (button), and lithium (9-volt, C, AA, coin, button, rechargeable).

There are two types of batteries:
1.  Primary — those that can not be reused
2.  Secondary also known as “rechargeable” — those that can be reused.

Primary batteries include alkaline/manganese, carbon-zinc, mercuric-oxide, zinc-air, silver-oxide, and other types of button batteries. Secondary batteries (rechargeable) include lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, and potentially nickel-hydrogen.

Next, lets talk about some potential problems or hazards with throwing away your batteries in your household garbage.

  1. When burned, they pollute the lakes and streams as heavy metals vaporize into the air.
  2. Heavy metals leaking from old batteries into the Earth.
  3. Exposing the environment to more lead and acid.
  4. Containing strong corrosive acids.
  5. May cause burns to your eyes and skin.

In landfills, heavy metals have the potential to leak slowly into Earth’s soil, groundwater or surface water. Dry cell batteries contribute about 88 percent of the total mercury and 50 percent of the cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream. In the past, batteries accounted for nearly half of the mercury used in the United States and over half of the mercury and cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream. When burned, some heavy metals such as mercury may vaporize and escape into the air, and cadmium and lead may end up in the ash.

Here are some tips to reduce battery waste, starting with prevention, which create less potentially hazardous waste from seeping into our Earth.

  1. First, whenever possible, buy hand operated, solar powered, kinetic powered, water powered, wind powered, potato powered :] items that function without batteries. If that is not an option, I feel as though plug operated is better for the environment than buying heavy metal laden batteries.
  2. If you need batteries buy rechargeable batteries, but remember that they also contain heavy metals such as nickel-cadmium, so it is still a problem, but less of one than non-rechargeable batteries.
  3. Look for the batteries that contain less mercury and heavy metals than others.
  4. Lastly, if batteries are your only option, before buying more check to see if you already have some at home.

We must keep in mind, that yes, rechargeable batteries result in a longer life span and use of fewer batteries. However, rechargeable batteries still contain heavy metals such as nickel-cadmium. The use of rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries can reduce the number of batteries entering the waste stream, but may increase the amount of heavy metals entering unless they are more effectively recycled. As of 1992, the percentage of cadmium in nickel-cadmium batteries was higher than the percentage of mercury in alkaline batteries, so substitution might only replace one heavy metal for another, and rechargeable batteries do use energy resources in recharging. When disposing of rechargeable batteries, recycle. [Source: ESHO]

Here is a great link to Call-2-Recycle, whom I wrote about in my fourth TDAAIT entry, back in January! All you need to do is put in your zip code and they will tell you where to take your recyclable batteries (and old cell phones).

If you did not find a place through Call-2-Recycle for your rechargeable batteries, you can always bring them to any of these locations to recycle:

In the US: Alltel, Batteries Plus, Best Buy, Black & Decker, Cingular Wireless, The Home Depot, Milwaukee Electric Tool, Orchard Supply, Porter Cable Service Center, RadioShack, Remington Product Company, Sears, Staples, Target, US Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and Wal-Mart.

If you are in Canada: Battery Plus, Bell Mobility, Canadian Tire, FIDO/Microcell, Future Shop, The Home Depot, Home Hardware, London Drugs, Makita Factory Service Centers, Personal Edge/Centre du Rasoir, RadioShack Canada, Revy, Sasktel, Sears, The Sony Store, Telus Mobility and Zellers.

There are not a lot of places that recycle non-rechargeable (typically “alkaline batteries”) that I could find. The best bet is to go to Earth 911 and put in their search feature, “alkaline batteries” and the zip code where you live. I know in NYC we have places for New York residents (only) to take alkaline batteries, maybe you do to!!!

One day I hope we no longer need batteries.