Each year, we throw out a whopping three billion batteries. That’s a lot of batteries. Question is, where do they all end up?

Like other types of electronic waste (e-waste), batteries don’t go in your recycling or trash bins. Ever. Some of those used-up batteries you’ve got lying around the house are actually household hazardous waste. That’s because they contain plenty of harmful stuff, like heavy metals. The only exception is alkaline batteries, such as Duracell or Eveready batteries, because some cities accept them in the trash. Best thing to do if you’re not sure is to treat all batteries as electronic waste.

Lead-Acid Automobile Batteries

Most of these puppies get recycled, assuming you dispose of them correctly. 90%, to be exact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That’s why it’s so important to bring them to a certified e-waste recycler. Many auto retailers and service centres will accept them for recycling, too. Between 60 – 80% of lead-acid batteries contain recycled plastic and lead. They’re a crucial part of the circular economy.

Non-Automotive Lead-Based Batteries

These types of batteries power heavy-duty industrial equipment, alarm systems, even emergency lighting. The same disposal rules for lead-acid automobile batteries apply to them, as well.

Dry-Cell Batteries

Dry-cell batteries cover everything we use at home, including 9-volt, A-type, C, D, button, coin, or rechargeable batteries. As mentioned, some cities accept alkaline batteries in the trash. You can find them in plenty of battery-operated devices, from your TV remote to your flashlight.

Before tossing an alkaline battery out, check to make sure it’s actually alkaline. It’ll say so right on the battery. Lithium-ion batteries, which sometimes look like alkaline batteries, should never go in your garbage or recycling bins. These batteries pose a serious risk to the people who have to sort through your waste.

In the first four months of 2018 alone, lithium-ion batteries were partly responsible for 347 unique waste and recycling facility fires across the U.S. and Canada, resulting in five deaths and five injuries to facility workers. This is a growing issue in the waste industry, and it’s something we can fix by simply recycling our batteries correctly. So, again, don’t toss these guys in your garbage or recycling!

For anything that’s not an alkaline battery, make sure to get it to the correct drop-off location. Many retailers will take them back. Some university or college custodial services will do the same. Organizations like Call2Recycle offer take-back programs in the U.S. and Canada. You can download the Recycle Coach app, too. If your city is a part of our network, we’ll show you where to recycle all the batteries. It’s easy. Seriously.

Are there any sustainable alternatives?

If you want to waste less batteries, kudos to you. Instead of buying single-use batteries, look for rechargeable ones instead. With over 1000 charges, they’re definitely more sustainable. And cost effective. Once they’ve worn out, you can dispose of them at an e-waste recycler.