How to Properly Dispose of Your Old Batteries

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From TV remotes and children’s toys to smartphones and tablet computers, countless consumer products contain batteries. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans use billions of these portable power sources each year. And while batteries offer increased convenience and portability by eliminating the need for a locally connected power source, they can harm the environment when not properly disposed of.

The Importance of Proper Disposal

It’s probably easier to toss your old batteries in the trash with the rest of your garbage, but this isn’t recommended for several reasons. First, some types of batteries contain a plethora of toxic chemicals, including mercury, cadmium, lead, lithium and acid, that can leach into the environment. Second, some states have laws prohibiting the disposal of certain types of batteries in regular trash. As a consumer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your old batteries are properly disposed of. Otherwise, you’ll contribute to increased environmental pollution that could leave you with a hefty fine.

Alkaline Batteries Are Safe to Toss in the Trash

Alkaline batteries, the most common type, are safe to dispose of in the trash. They don’t meet the criteria for being corrosive waste, nor are they considered hazardous waste under the EPA’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). This hasn’t always been the case. Up in the 1990s, many manufacturers used mercury in their alkaline batteries. This toxic chemical has since been eliminated, though, making alkaline batteries safe to toss in the trash.

Apple GiveBack

Whether it’s an iPhone, iPad, iWatch or MacBook, Apple products don’t use alkaline batteries. Rather, they use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that contain toxic gases and chemicals. Not only are the gases harmful to the environment; they are also potentially fatal when inhaled. If you have one or more Apple products that you’d like to dispose of, take them to a local Apple store. The Cupertino company’s GiveBack program, formerly known as Renew, offers free recycling on all Apple products. If it’s a relatively new product, Apple may even reward you with store credit for it. The GiveBack program currently offers credit up to $290 for used iPhones, $250 for used iPads, $1,000 for used MacBooks and $175 for used iWatches. Most importantly, though, Apple will safely recycle your old device so that the battery doesn’t end up in a landfill.

Other Rechargeable Batteries

Apple products aren’t the only devices that use rechargeable batteries. Android devices, drones, remote-controlled cars and portable stereos also use similar rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. You can’t take these products to an Apple store, but you can take them to one of thousands of U.S. retailers that participate in the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) program, including Lowe’s, The Home Depot and Staples.

Alternatively, you can contact your city’s or country’s local hazardous waste disposal center. Most municipalities have a center designed specifically for the disposal of hazardous waste. You may be required to pay a fee to dispose of your old lithium-ion batteries here, but it’s a legal and environmentally friendly way to get rid of them.

Take Car Batteries to Auto Parts Store

Car batteries are particularly harmful to the environment because of their high concentrations of lead and acid. As a result, most states have laws prohibiting the disposal of car batteries in regular trash. Considering that the average car battery lasts just five years, however, you may find yourself needing to dispose of one in the near future. When your car battery dies and you need to replace it, consider taking your old battery to a local auto parts store. Most major auto parts stores accept old car batteries free of charge.

With Earth’s population exceeding 7.6 billion people, everyone should be conscious of their impact on the environment. By properly disposing of your old batteries, you’ll promote a cleaner environment.

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