News Release

Office of Public Affairs

For Immediate Release: January 11, 2016
Release #2016-01
Media Contact:
Heather Jones (CalRecycle)

SACRAMENTO--The gift-giving season has come and gone, and kids and adults everywhere are immersed in their new, battery-operated toys and gadgets. Before it’s time to replace those batteries, the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) would like to remind consumers how to safely and legally dispose of them.

Used batteries can contain cobalt, nickel, cadmium, and other toxic heavy metals. They are also corrosive. For these reasons, they are considered household hazardous waste and must be handled appropriately to prevent contaminating the environment and posing a health risk to the public or to disposal workers.

Do not throw used batteries into the garbage or a recycling bin. It’s unsafe—and it’s against the law.

Most retailers, such as big-box stores, that sell batteries in California are required by law to take back rechargeable batteries. All batteries, including non-rechargeable types, can be taken to your local household hazardous waste site. It’s a good idea to call ahead to confirm collection hours and whether there are any collection restrictions.

The following webpages list places that accept used batteries.

Residential recycling bins are generally for aluminum and steel cans, paper, plastic, and glass—never for used batteries. In fact, putting batteries in recycling bins creates a host of problems for recycling facilities. When such facilities are found to have more than 10 percent of non-recyclable or “residual” material in their material stream, they can be cited. Since batteries are relatively heavy, they can quickly put a recycling center over its residual limit. Taking your batteries to a proper collection site ensures they get appropriately managed and the recyclable elements can be put to their highest and best use.

Keep in mind that rechargeable batteries can last hundreds, if not more than a thousand, times as long as single-use types, which can add up to substantial cost savings and greatly reduce the amount of material that has to be managed at the end of its useful life. Rechargeable batteries are also made of a higher percentage of recyclable material, which makes recycling them more cost-effective for manufacturers. Outdoor retailer REI has useful information on choosing batteries; Consumer Reports also has a useful battery buying guide.

Why not make a New Year’s resolution to protect the environment, disposal facility workers, and the public? Put used batteries in an empty box, in an out-of-the way place, until it’s full enough to warrant a trip to your local household hazardous waste facility or retailer. Perhaps on the same trip, you could buy a few rechargeable batteries. Out with the old, in with the new.

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CalRecycle provides oversight of California solid waste handling and recycling programs to protect human health, develop sustainable solutions that conserve resources, and reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.