Lifestyle & Human Interest

Is It Safe To Throw Dead Batteries Away?


We throw away a lot of things. Packaging materials, food containers, leftovers, cardboard boxes — Americans have such a garbage problem that many are taking steps to try to reduce the waste their households produce.

Composting is great for vegetable and paper materials. Recycling is good for some plastic, glass and cardboard. Buying less and using reusable containers instead of individual plastic bags helps as well.

But when you’re left with items that can’t be composted, reduced or reused, you get a category of potentially dangerous items: paint, some household cleaners and batteries, to name a few.

We’ve long been taught that certain toxic or potentially corrosive items — including batteries — must be taken to a hazardous waste facility, and that’s an extra trip that most people don’t need in their lives.

Strange New Kate Middleton Portrait Causes a Stir: 'What on Earth Is This?'

Batteries are still in items we use daily. They can contain lead, lithium, mercury, cadmium or sulfuric acid — though many single-use batteries are now made of less caustic materials.

“Whether it’s your standard alkaline AA battery, a rechargeable cell phone battery, or the battery from your car, you should treat it with care by using safe storage and disposal methods,” said James Dickerson, Consumer Reports’ chief scientific officer.

Knowing what to do with dead batteries depends on the type of battery you’re dealing with. Most AAs are not nearly as hazardous as rechargeable batteries, car batteries and some button cell batteries (which often contain the more toxic chemicals).

Single-use AAs are known as “primary” batteries, and though they are less toxic, they still shouldn’t be treated without care.

“Today, primary batteries are rather benign chemically,” Carl Smith,  Call2Recycle’s president and CEO, told Consumer Reports, “but that doesn’t mean you should just throw them away.

“A primary battery’s metal casing can be recovered and reused, and while the chemicals inside may be less toxic than those in a lead-acid car battery, that doesn’t mean they’re safe or good for the environment.”

Nowadays, many single-use, household-type batteries can be legally thrown away.

However, the rules are specific to location, as some places still categorize alkaline batteries as “hazardous waste” while others allow them to be tossed in the trash, so make sure to check with your local government’s ruling.

Researchers Ask 47 Inmates How They Pick Their Victims, 1 Trait Stood Out from All the Others

But there’s still something better you can do with them.

“No matter what kind of battery you’re dealing with, our advice is that you should try and recycle it,” Smith added.

Some sites (like Earth911) offer ways to search for a local spot to turn over used batteries so they can be made into something new and useful.

“What you shouldn’t do is take your batteries and toss them haphazardly into a bag, or store them in a metal container,” Dickerson added.

Even “dead” batteries should still be handled with care, and according to Business Insider, experts suggest taping the ends.

You can also make sure batteries are lined up so their ends don’t touch and mark used batteries so you know which ones are still good.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.