How to Dispose of Lithium-Ion Batteries (And Help Prevent Fires)
There are so many products that use lithium-ion on batteries on the market today: vape pens, phones, laptops, power tools, and much more. Are there any battery recycling programs? Are batteries hazardous waste? Is it ok to throw batteries in the garbage? As a consumer, it is important to know how to dispose of lithium-ion batteries properly.
Lithium-Ion Batteries: Disposal Hazard
There has been a 26% increase in fires at waste facilities across the U.S. and Canada in recent years. It is estimated that 40% of waste and recycling facilities in the U.S. have been affected by fires in a given year.
These fires can often devastate the system of recycling goods—even close down an entire recycling plant for good. It is often thought that hazardous waste such as lithium-ion batteries can be the cause. So how do we dispose of lithium-ion batteries safely?
Are Lithium-Ion Batteries Actually Hazardous Waste?
Absolutely! Lithium-Ion Batteries are definitely hazardous waste. After a battery is no longer usable because it seems that it will no longer hold a charge, it’s time to get rid of it.
But when we might believe a battery is dead because it stops working, there is actually still plenty of hazardous material left behind.
For example a lithium-ion battery can still hold 80% of it’s thermal capacity after it is done. So things like phone batteries and even small vape pen batteries, are potentially ready to combust.
Not only do batteries carry an immediate risk of fire if disposed improperly, they also hold many long term risks because they carry many toxic substances that when crushed will leak into the ground and contaminate our water.
What Happens if You Throw Away Lithium-ion Batteries?
Every battery carries the potential of fire or combustion. Once items are put on the truck, no matter what it is, it is most likely about to be compacted.
Imagine a few batteries being smashed and leaking fluid. How harmful could a tiny bit of battery acid be, you say? Well, when the insulation layer of a lithium-ion battery is damaged, it can cause the temperature to increase drastically to around 500°C (932°F) which brings a high risk of fire or explosion. Imagine that combination mixing next to items that could have oil or some other fire igniter.
Throwing lithium-ion batteries in the garbage or recycling bins can be like a candle next to a curtain. So it is important to know how we can dispose of lithium-ion batteries.
What Can We Do About the Hazards of Lithium-Ion Battery Disposal?
Some cities have taken to spreading the word about this hazard. Many electronics stores offer battery return programs, so it is worth the trouble to ask when you purchase anything with a lithium-ion battery.
It’s good to know there is hope in recycling batteries! But don’t just drop them in your home recycling bin! There are many drop off programs to recycle your batteries depending on your location.
It’s also nice to hear battery drop off bins can be used as a school or community fundraiser in some areas!
There are so many types of batteries that it is difficult to know how to properly dispose of lithium-ion batteries. One thing is for sure, be cautious and always double check!
Find a Drop-Off Center for Your Lithium-Ion Batteries
Batteries are considered household hazardous waste and should be disposed of properly at a hazardous waste facility drop off if you do not have any store return programs or community battery recycling programs near you.
Call2Recycle is a battery recycling program with drop-off centers across North America. All you have to do is gather up your batteries and cell phones, bag them or tape the terminals, then drop them off. Find a location in the US or Canada.
Check the What Goes Where search engine or download the Recycle Coach app to see exactly what to do in your area with every type of battery.
Don RamosJanuary 27, 2022 at 2:21 pm
What do I do with old Lithium Coin Batteries? (CR2032)
AprilJanuary 28, 2022 at 7:28 am
For Lithium Coin Batteries, if you have a lot of them, you can purchase a send in box from Call2Recycle. Otherwise, in most areas, it would be recommended to bring them to your local household hazardous waste location.
Peter LakeMarch 7, 2022 at 2:11 pm
Will the Li be recycled at most recycling centres, even from small batteries like this?
AprilMarch 9, 2022 at 1:29 pm
Many recycling centers don’t accept Li batteries. This is why they require safe disposal that can safely separate the materials for future use. Please dispose of Li batteries though Call2Recycle, you household hazardous waste location, or through other battery recycling companies that can handle the material safely.
TraceyJanuary 25, 2023 at 5:35 pm
What the best way to dispose of Energizer AA or AAA Ultimate Lithium batteries? They’re not the big scooter/bicycle/car lithiums, but don’t seem to be addressed in many recycling searched.
AprilJanuary 30, 2023 at 6:58 am
Great question. While they may not be big like the other batteries you mentioned, they are still lithium batteries and can be brought to any Call2Recycle battery drop-off found at many Home Depot or Staples stores. Those battery drop-off boxes do not accept Alkaline, but do accept any lithium batteries- even if they are AA or AAA. You can also check with your local Household Hazardous Waste program to see if they have any special lithium battery return program or drop-off event.
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