Pollution Prevention & Household Batteries
(everything you wanted to know about batteries but were afraid to ask…)
What’s the problem with batteries?
- Household batteries contain heavy metals including mercury, cadmium, lead, zinc, nickel, manganese dioxide, and silver.
- Batteries are the source of more than ½ the cadmium and mercury pollution from household waste.
- Whether they go to a licensed dump, a incinerator, or end up along the side of the road, the heavy metals may contaminate soil, air, and water!
- Each household discards 1.5 – 2 pounds of batteries each year – that’s nearly 200 million pounds or 2.5 billion batteries per year!
- Much of this is unnecessary through careful consumer use and habits.
The known health effects of heavy metals include dermatitis and skin discoloration; intestinal and nervous disorders; kidney damage; brain and immune system damage; prostate cancer; and liver and lung disease.
What happens to the batteries that are collected?
Recycled: low mercury type alkaline, nickel- cadmiums and some mercury/silver oxide/ button cells.
De-activated/ disposed of in double lined hazardous waste facility: lithium and some mercury/silver oxide/ button cells.
Minimize your impact:
- Do not dispose of recyclable batteries in your regular trash. Bring to a special collection program. The IEPA now says that single use Alkaline batteries can be sealed in a zip-lock type bag & thrown out, but this is probably NOT the best action to take.
- Use batteries sparingly. Batteries not only contain hazardous materials, they are also expensive to use.
- Nickel-Cadmium rechargeable is the best choice for many applications. Though more expensive initially, they are less expensive to use over the battery life, both in terms of the cost and waste. And they are recyclable!
- Alkaline rechargeable combine rechargeability and lower toxicity, but have a shorter life span than nickel-cadmium.
- Built-in/ portable rechargeable for drills, flashlights, etc. often become garbage when they can’t be recharged. Black and Decker, Makita and Skil will provide prepaid mailers for you to return used “portables” for recycling. Contact the company for information.
- Alkaline types containing less than .025% mercury should be used for a particular use (ex: smoke alarms) requiring best reliability.
- Mercury button type batteries for hearing aides, cameras, electronic games, watches etc., can be recharged with a solar recharger available from Real Goods. Some jewelry, watch or camera retailers will accept them.
- Real Goods of Ukiah, California will guarantee your rechargeables for life if you purchase batteries from them, and will recycle the batteries you return. Call Real Goods at 800-762-732