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How Do You Dispose of Your Batteries?

- Patti Lynn, Recycling Resources Manager, Chester County Solid Waste Authority

What do batteries and plastic containers have in common?

Both are ubiquitous and confusing to recyclers, having multiple chemistries in multiple products. Manufacturing of batteries will increase over 400% from 2020-2025. From button cells to embedded ones, batteries are smaller, lighter, cheaper, but more energy-dense than ever before. Their power can make them dangerous to manage, even if you think they have lost their charge. A recent fire in a York County recycling facility is believed to have started with a lithium-ion battery mixed with cardboard.

Batteries are either primary (one and done), or they are rechargeable. Both types can be recycled, but they do NOT go in your recycling bin OR your trash bin. Alkaline batteries (AA, AAA, etc.) are the ONLY ones that can safely go in trash. Remember - a spent battery can still have a charge. Lithium-ion batteries are flammable if they are punctured. It is unsafe to remove a LI-ion battery. Before battery drop off, tape the terminals, or put the same type of batteries (all NiCad, e.g.) in a plastic bag. View the CCSWA’s battery safety video.

West Vincent has separate battery collection boxes located in the Township Building lobby.

Other places to dispose of batteries include a Home Depot or Lowes (check online), or register for a county Household Hazardous Waste event.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a universal labeling system for common household batteries so consumers will know how to manage them at end-of-life? Batteries are getting recycled for their component metals, thereby reducing extraction needed from the earth. That is a good thing. Please be responsible with your batteries!

Are bicycle batteries the next new recycling items?

Electric bikes use lithium batteries that may be recharged up to 1,000 times. Eventually, we will be hearing about the need to “dispose” of them. Additionally, with EV demand up, it is reasonable to think that more infrastructure will be needed to handle these “high watt hour” (>300 hrs.) batteries, automatically deemed “hazardous”.

There is a solution for recycling bike batteries: the Call2Recycle product stewardship organization recycles batteries and has partnered with to collect bike batteries at retail bike shops.

If there is a bicycle shop in your community, please let them know about this program. Use the Call2Recycle locator to find the area bike shops who are partners in this program.

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