With so many wireless and cordless devices in the typical home, battery disposal is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. You have batteries in your laptop, your cell phone, your TV remote and some of the electrical appliances stored in your kitchen drawers.

But not all batteries are created equal.

Throwing your rechargeable batteries away when they’re “dead” could be unsafe. Not only do the chemicals in batteries pose a risk to the environment (if not properly handled), batteries can spark and cause fires or explosions at the waste processing facility or recycling center.

So how should you get rid of your old batteries?

Alkaline Batteries

Single-use batteries (alkaline) are fine to toss in the trash when they run out of juice. These are most often found in flashlights, kids toys, TV remotes and other devices that need to have their batteries replaced when they stop working. (I know, that sounds really obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t think about it.)

Single-use batteries are now made of common metals deemed non-hazardous by the federal government and can be disposed of in your regular trash. Prior to 1996, single-use batteries contained mercury and were treated as hazardous waste.

One exception: Watch out … the small, button-shaped batteries found in watches should NEVER be thrown away. They are considered to be hazardous and should be disposed of like a rechargeable battery.

Rechargeable Batteries

One way to cut down on the number of disposable batteries you send to the landfill each year is to buy and use rechargeable batteries, instead. These can be re-used up to 1,000 times before they wear out. But beware, rechargeable batteries pose their own risks and need to be handled differently when it comes time to dispose of them.

In fact, rechargeable batteries are the leading cause of fires at recycling centers and landfills because they are usually not prepared for the process and, instead, just buried in trash or piles of recyclables where they can accidentally spark. Lithium batteries – like those found in flashlights, rechargeable household appliances, computers, etc. – are often the culprits.

Small, sealed lead acid batteries, like those found in battery-powered scooters, remote control cars, etc. contain hazardous chemicals that can harm pets and contaminate land and waterways.

Recycling Batteries

Prepping single-use batteries for recycling:

  • Place a piece of non-conductive clear tape over the ends to prevent any current transfer. You can also bag each battery individually instead of taping the ends.
  • Seal batteries in a plastic bag that doesn’t conduct electricity in case there is a spark.
  • Drop the batteries off at a collection site.

Prepping rechargeable batteries for recycling:

  • Remove batteries from their electronics if possible. (This is not required for small electronics like cellphones or iPods, which can be accepted by the e-waste facility at the Waste Commission’s facility in Davenport.)
  • Cover the terminals with non-conductive tape clear tape.
  • Seal batteries in a plastic bag that doesn’t conduct electricity in case there is a spark.
  • Drop the batteries off at a collection site (preferably the e-waste facility).

The Waste Commission of Scott County has created a simple-to-follow guide to help make it easy for you. Just click on the image to the right and either download it or print it out and save the information in an easy-to-reach place.