The batteries in your remote are dead, and your cell phone is dying. After heading out to buy new ones, you might wonder if you can recycle alkaline batteries and how to do that. The short answer is "yes, you can"—but let’s dig a little deeper so you can see how to accomplish this.
What Alkaline Batteries Are Made Of
Before recycling alkaline batteries, you should know what's inside. Alkaline batteries are made of a mixture of zinc, manganese dioxide and potassium hydroxide. The zinc is used to make the battery voltage, while manganese dioxide is used for the battery’s cathode and potassium hydroxide is an electrolyte.
It’s common to find alkaline batteries in digital cameras, MP3 players, flashlights, and other household items. Alkaline batteries are different from rechargeable batteries in that they cannot be recharged. Additionally, alkaline batteries are more expensive than traditional ones because the materials needed to make them last longer don't come cheap.
In short: alkaline batteries cost less and last longer, at least initially, than rechargeable ones due to their low discharge rate. However, they're not rechargeable, so once you use them up, you’ll have to buy new ones. This makes rechargeable batteries more cost effective in the long run.
How to Recycle Alkaline Batteries
If you have a recycling center in your town or city, you can recycle alkaline batteries there. A battery exchange kiosk is another place you can take used alkaline batteries and exchange them for a fresh set of fully charged ones.
If none of these options are available in your area, you may be able to bring your old alkaline batteries to a store that sells new ones and they will accept them there or direct you toward a location that does. Some large stores also supply containers for you to ship alkaline batteries to them for recycling.
Alkaline batteries are made from non-renewable resources that take a long time to form, so it’s better to recycle them. If you don't have access to recycling options in your area, consider purchasing rechargeable batteries instead.
Why You Shouldn’t Throw Away Alkaline Batteries
Tossing alkaline batteries is harmful to the environment. The zinc in the battery can leak out and cause damage when it gets into soil or water and into the bodies of animals.
Alkaline batteries are considered hazardous waste in some areas because of their ability to leach into the soil and contaminate groundwater supplies if dumped improperly. There’s even a chance that alkaline batteries could explode if they're thrown in a landfill because of the gases that build up inside them as they decompose.
The State of California deems batteries as hazardous waste and doesn’t allow them to be discarded as domestic waste and also require that alkaline batteries be recycled. Older batteries may contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel—all dangerous for humans and animals to ingest or touch.
If a pet or small child eats a battery, they could get sick from chemical poisoning or even die from lead exposure over time. Take-home message: don't let your pets or children eat anything that looks like an alkaline battery!
If Someone Removes Alkaline Batteries from the Trash Bin
If you do carelessly toss alkaline batteries into the trash bin, someone could remove and sell them as a new battery for profit. This is bad for everyone. It also creates more waste and allows more potentially dangerous materials into homes where they kids and pets could be exposed.
Never put alkaline batteries in the garbage disposal (as people have been known to do). They will corrode the metal parts of your disposal and may cause serious damage that could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to repair or replace.
It's also important not to throw these types of batteries into compost bins; they are not made from biodegradable materials like plant-based plastics and will take a long time to break down .
Don’t Try to Reuse Alkaline Batteries
If you're thinking about reusing alkaline batteries, ask yourself these questions: Do I want to risk my safety? Do I want to risk damaging my device? If the answer is "no," then recycle your alkaline batteries instead of attempting to reuse them. If an alkaline battery leaks or explodes while inside a device, injury could occur, as well as damage being done to the device itself.
Even if nothing bad happens right away after reinserting an old alkaline battery into a device, over time their performance will degrade and cause problems for both your pocketbook and your electronic devices.
Recycle Alkaline Batteries
You can recycle alkaline batteries. Keep in mind that alkaline batteries are not biodegradable and are therefore considered hazardous waste. If you want to keep your environment clean and healthy, then it’s best to dispose of them properly by recycling them.
- Health Effects. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (US). September 2012.
- Environmental Services Department. "Battery Recycling". City of San Diego. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
- "Yes, You Need to Recycle Your Old Batteries - Consumer Reports." 11 Mar. 2022, https://www.consumerreports.org/recycling/yes-you-need-to-recycle-your-old-batteries-a5385943645/.
- "Are Alkaline Batteries Bad for the Environment? (9 Answers)." 08 Sept. 2022, https://citizensustainable.com/alkaline-batteries/.
- "Used Household Batteries | US EPA." 25 Feb. 2022, https://www.epa.gov/recycle/used-household-batteries.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.