Home > materials, recycle > Alkaline Batteries – Just Throw them in the Garbage!

Alkaline Batteries – Just Throw them in the Garbage!

We used to think it was a shame to let any recyclable household item go into the waste bin, so we were surprised to learn that it’s not necessary to recycle alkaline batteries.

Batteries can be categorized as either single-use (primary cell) batteries or rechargeable (secondary cell) batteries. Each type requires special instructions to ensure it’s properly recycled (or discarded). The majority of consumer batteries for household use fall within these types:

  • Alkaline
  • Zinc-carbon
  • Button cell (lithium manganese or silver oxide)
  • Lithium (Li-ion)
  • Nickel-cadmium (NiCd)
  • Nickel metal hydride (NiMH)
  • Lead-based (automotive and non-automotive)

It turns out that some battery manufacturers, like Duracell and Energizer, have eliminated all of the added mercury from its alkaline batteries, so they can now be safely discarded along with normal household waste. The other components of the batteries — steel, zinc and manganese — don’t pose health or environmental risks in the solid waste stream, according to Duracell, and those metals are difficult to recover from batteries.

We learned this by reading a blog written by an environmentally minded person named Will Taft — willtaft.com — who did some research into the proper disposal of alkaline batteries. He even found this comment from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA):

“Alkaline batteries are not recyclable. They’ll just be thrown out in a landfill, or at the most a hazardous waste landfill.”

Rechargeable batteries are a different story, though — they can contain mercury, cadmium, lead, and lithium, and therefore should be recycled. Car batteries and other lead-based batteries should also be recycled.

Alkaline batteries have several advantages: they last for a long time, perform well at high and low temperatures and have a long storage life. They can be stored at room temperature for two years and retain 90 percent of their original capacities.

It’s important to handle them properly, however. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that if potassium hydroxide, which is contained within the cells of alkaline batteries, leaks out, it can cause chemical burns on skin or in your eyes.

And, Duracell warns people never to dispose of alkaline batteries by fire, because they could explode. Duracell also says not to dispose of large amounts of alkaline batteries together. Used batteries are often not completely “dead,” and grouping them can bring these “live” batteries into contact with one another, creating safety risks.

Most sources say that more than 150,000 tons of single-use batteries are tossed into landfills each year. Send your alkaline batteries to ecycler HQ and we’ll take action to properly dispose of the batteries.

Buy rechargeable batteries!



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    • Jack Bradbury

      thanks for the review, but I think your’e really missing the boat as far as recycling alkaline batteries. Although mercury has been reduced or eliminated from alkaline batteries there are still components in these single use batteries that make them very undesirable in entering the waste stream. All batteries have 3 things in common: they are non biodegradable, they contain heavy metals and they all contain electrolytes that can contaminate the groundwater. Used batteries are far worse than paper, plastic or glass for the environment, yet people think that since the mercury was eliminated, they are just fine to put into our landfills.
      The real reason they are being given the green light to dump is because of cost. Alkaline batteries are relatively expensive to recycle so the blind eye is turned. If it was required to recycle them, as it is in europe, the cost to process would reduce dramatically. Don’t buy Eveready and Duracell’s line of bs that this stuff is OK to put into our landfills and eventually into our groundwater.

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    • Guest from Arizona

      What a load of ….. There is the assumption that because Alkaline batteries are now mercury free they are safe to just toss anywhere. The other materials that go into batteries are really no better (zinc for example). In small doses these metals are considered safe but in high concentrations they are still toxic.

      For example, there is plenty of zinc in the local creek systems (Bradshaw Mountains, AZ) from historic hardrock mining. These ‘point sources’ are EPA Superfund sites and while swimming won’t kill you it is definitely not recommended. Rain water carries pollution away from these ‘point sources’ (tailings) impairing the creek for miles downstream. Now consider your local landfill – literally a mountain of batteries leaching into the ground water. That is the water we drink!The socially responsible thing to do is to recycle the materials that went into making those batteries, and if that is not cost effective, to store the batteries until it is. The same people who claim it is safe to toss these batteries in the trash are the same people who are proponents for digging mile wide pits in the ground. These people don’t give a shit about the environment – they are actively destroying it to obtain raw materials. So go ahead and let them ease your guilty conscience while you toss your heavy metals into the trash.

    • Gelatinous

      Storing a bunch of corroding, leaking batteries in your home and praying someone is going to devise a cost effective solution for your mess is pretty foolish.

    • Jack Bradbury

      gelatinous, there are cost effective ways to responsibly recycle alkaline batteries right now. You can go to earth911.com and find places to recycle close by, for free in many cases. In the event you have no handy disposal sites you can always order the Big Green Box from Toxco or Battery Solutions equivalent and take care of them that way.
      The battery manufacturers are conducting tests in 6 sites in the US in anticipation of funding the recycling of alkaline batteries, starting in 2013. So maybe that “praying for someone to devise a cost effective recycling solution” isn’t quite so foolish.

    • jack bradbury

      this post sucks! I’d be more polite, but you post irresponsible, unresearched crap like this, leave it up and don’t have any vehicle to communicate with you so you can correct your bogus information, so your uninformed opinion floats out here forever like it’s based on any truth. Take this crap down. Even the post you site (Will Taft’s “there may be no reason to recycle alkaline batteries”) has recognized the error of that submission.

    • Jack Bradbury

      man…..this is such an annoying load of garbage! I’d be more polite if you were just misinformed, but you’ve posted erroneous, harmful information and then when I send you numerous email messages to urge you to correct the information, you don’t respond. Take some responsibility for the garbage you publish that people think is true because it’s from the “ecycler” and they go about doing damage to the environment.

    • Jack Bradbury

      that’s interesting “Guest.” It just so happens there are a number of cost effective means of recycling alkaline batteries. That’s why Vermont just became the first state with a manufacturer supported battery recycling legislation. Alkaline recycling isn’t free, but with manufacturers footing the recovery bill (and passing on to consumers, as it should be) we’ll keep the bad stuff out of the landfill and with more states getting on line, the costs will drop dramatically.

    • humblejoy

      Not that I agree with it, but here is the link stating you can throw them away.

    • Jack Bradbury

      yo Humble! I know that Duracell posts that “recycling” advice on their website. But only in the US. In Europe, where battery recycling is financed by the manufacturers like Duracell, their advice is to keep hazardous waste out of the landfills and recycle their products.
      Interesting, huh?

    • Michelle

      I just need to know what to do with a cubic foot of dead/deadish batteries. I can’t find anywhere to take them and I certainly don’t want to throw them all in the trash at once.

    • Jack Bradbury

      don’t know where you live, but go to: earth911.com and you can type in the material you want to recycle and your zip code and they’ll find the closest places. If you live in Western Washington go to: allbatterysalesandservices.com and look for the recycle locations.

    • Michelle

      thanks- I found a place that sells recycling kits pretty cheap. (www.AmericanLampRecycling.com )

    • Jim5437532

      Whenever reasonably possible, I prefer to use rechargeables. Whether they are rechargeable or not; I try to take my depleted batteries to a recycling center or hazardous waste collection.

      One of the problems about throwing batteries in the garbage, is if they have any charge left they can short out and start fires when they are compacted in a compact by a truck or when they are run over or plowed by excavation equipment at a landfill. Garbage truck and landfill fires are nasty, dangerous and bad for the environment.

      Even if batteries are discharged, they can leak caustic chemicals that can cause fires and explosions.

      I think throwing them into regular garbage is bad advice. I think that recycling centers and hazardous waste collection sites are more likely to dispose of them more relatively safely.

      Once or twice a year my community has hazardous waste collection drives. Some of it is recycled, the rest is dispose in a relatively more safe.

      Burning underground fires can last months and years. So putting batteries in a landfill can be dangerous and bad for the environment.

    • Ted L.

      This article strikes me as a bit odd: not only, as previous commenters have noted, is it not advisable to simply trash old alkaline batteries, as the article suggests, but there’s a strange disconnect between the paragraph that talks about alkaline batteries having several advantages over rechargeables, and the bold last line “Buy rechargeable batteries!” What exactly is the writer trying to get across?

    • lostinlodos

      I SELL my used primary batteries at my local yard in Chicago as breakage aluminium (aka #3 or old)
      Get 26c a pound and everything is recycled here in American.
      This post is so dated it needs to be downgraded by Google

    • Jack Bradbury

      Lost lodi, really?! Somebody pays you for alkaline!? Who?

    • housekeeping805

      We throw all our batteries in the local creek

    • Jack Bradbury


    • peterstaats

      Good one! At least someone here is not a tree-hugger and has a sense of humor.

    • Will Davis

      Just because you don’t NEED to recycle something, does not mean you shouldn’t. “Oh, these batteries are safe in household waste!”. So freaking what? You can still recycle them so they can be broken down and used to make something new. That’s ten times better than sending them to landfill.

      I find it bizarre a site called ecycler is actively discouraging people from recycling “just because they don’t need to”.

    • jack bradbury

      Will, this site has been inactive for several years, outside of the odd comment here and there. I initially was outraged by it, and now just chalk it up as more recycling disinformation.

    • It’s a balance of cost versus “being green”. At the time this article was written, batteries had negative value–most people are NOT willing to pay someone to recycle.

    • jack bradbury

      I’d suggest you update the site with correct and current information. Battery manufacturers are now aware that the negative value to cost ratio has tipped to recycle household batteries and have established the Corporation for Battery Recycling to fund recycling. Our company has been recycling alkaline batteries funded by CBR for the past 4 years!

    • I’d be happy to post an article that you write–an expert in the field.

    • Harry

      in CA it’s illegal to throw out batteries (the only state to have this law) but you also have to pay to have them recycled. Sheesh

    • sureshot32

      The problem is that it’s one of the first Google results, so people are still reading outdated advice. The world would probably be better without this article, but the author would be “happy to post an article” provided he doesn’t have to do anything. I suspect “ecycler” is not really interested in protecting the environment, but gathering clicks. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, so to speak.

    • neroden

      The waste of zinc and manganese is sad. Those metals are expensive to extract through mining of rock. They should be recycled, even if it’s expensive.

    • Tad

      Shouldn’t everyone be a treehugger? I mean, trees do keep us alive. I guess I’m a treehugger. Healthy forests and creeks are awesome! I think the vast majority of people throw their batteries in the trash because there is no good program, requirement or TRANSPARENCY in the US. I’m also a capitalist, but greed can’t be allowed to win over common sense. We need some sort of transparency to force competition to make companies CHAMPION the right, healthy, life-supporting, environmentally sustainable (look it up) things!

    • fiddlemuse


    • Patrick Daniel

      All of this mush about recycling make me sick. American don’t recycle so don’t talk like you really care. If you don’t recycle the basic paper, plastic, glass, or aluminum, then don’t talk about landfill toxic. I know ALL of you who posted comments had thrown a few things that I just mentioned into the trash. And all of you, the pretender, think green house effect destroying the ozone, couldn’t careless about recycling. So please stop pretending that you care.