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Household Battery Recycling

Household batteries, commonly known as dry cell batteries, are comprised of an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte. The anode is a positive terminal, the cathode is the negative terminal, and the electrolyte is the chemical solution through which the electrons flow from the anode to the cathode, creating an electrical charge. Various metals are used in the cathodes and anodes. The following summary provides general information on the recycling options for household batteries.

RECHARGEABLE BATTERY TYPES

Nickel Cadmium Batteries

Nickel cadmium batteries consist of a nickel cathode, a cadmium anode, and an alkaline solution for an electrolyte. These batteries are rechargeable and are found in traditional cylindrical battery sizes as well as in a wide variety of battery packs. The battery packs are used in items such as cordless telephones, cordless power tools, hand-held vacuums and video cameras. Cadmium is a toxic metal that can pose a threat to human health and the environment. Nickel cadmium batteries are labeled with the chemical symbol Ni-Cd.

Call2Recycle is a product stewardship program providing no-cost battery and cell phone recycling solutions across the United States and Canada. Operated by Call2Recycle, Inc., a 501 (c)4 nonprofit public service organization, the program is funded by battery and product manufacturers committed to responsible recycling. For more information on where to recycle nickel cadmium batteries in your area, please log onto Call2Recycle or to use their Drop-off site locator by telephone, please call 1-877-273-2925. Participating retail collection points include Batteries Plus, Battery Warehouse, Home Depot, Lowes, Radio Shack, Sears and Staples. This battery type can also be taken to one of our Pennsylvania’s Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Program events. The Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program webpage contains a complete list of these HHW collection events.

Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries

Nickel metal hydride batteries are more environmentally friendly than nickel cadmium due to the absence of toxic cadmium. The anode is a metal alloy that absorbs hydrogen and the cathode is nickel oxide. The electrolyte is potassium hydroxide. These batteries can be found in camcorders, cell phones and power tools. They have many of the same performance characteristics as nickel cadmium.

These batteries are labeled with the symbol NiMH and have the same recycling options as what is listed for Nickel Cadmium Batteries above.

Nickel Zinc Batteries

Nickel Zinc (Ni-Zn) batteries are newer to the marketplace and can be found in digital cameras and wireless keyboards.

These batteries have the same recycling options as what is listed for Nickel Cadmium Batteries above.

Lithium Ion Batteries

Lithium ion batteries that are rechargeable are most commonly found in digital cameras, cell phones and lap top computers. They contain and use lithium metallic oxide for a cathode and a carbon material as an anode. The electrolyte is a lithium salt.

This battery type can be recycled through Call2Recycling, Inc, or you can use their Drop-off site locator by telephone, 1-877-273-2925. Participating retail collection points include Batteries Plus, Battery Warehouse, Home Depot, Lowes, Radio Shack, Sears and Staples. They also can be taken to one of our Pennsylvania HHW Collection events. The Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program webpage contains a complete list of these HHW collection events.

NONRECHARGEABLE BATTERY TYPES

Alkaline and Zinc Carbon Batteries

Alkaline and Zinc Carbon Batteries typically contain a manganese dioxide cathode and a zinc anode. The electrolyte in an alkaline battery is usually potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide, while in a zinc carbon battery the electrolyte is ammonium chloride or zinc chloride. In the past, mercury was added to these batteries to prevent corrosion and the creation of hydrogen gas. Recent laws have restricted the levels of mercury allowed in alkaline and zinc-carbon batteries. Today, alkaline batteries on the market are required to have zero-added mercury and are no longer hazardous.

There are limited options for recycling alkaline and zinc carbon batteries. AERC Recycling Solutions (Allentown) at phone number 1-866-447-5177 recycles these battery types. In addition, INMETCO, a metals reclamation facility in Pennsylvania also recycles alkaline and zinc carbon batteries. Their company web link is: www.INMETCO.com and their telephone number is: 724-758-2800. Please note that AERC and INMETCO charge fees to recycle these battery types. Alkaline and zinc carbon battery types no longer contain mercury and they may be disposed in your normal household trash.

For residents residing in Allegheny, Dauphin, Elk and Lancaster counties, alkaline and zinc carbon batteries can still be dropped off free of charge thanks to the Authority, County and/or business partnership absorbing the recycling costs. In addition, residents in counties or municipalities with curbside household hazardous waste collection, can recycle alkaline batteries as part of the curbside HHW program. Information on each of these free alkaline and zinc carbon battery recycling outlets for these residents can be found by clicking on the links below.

Lithium Button Cell Batteries

Lithium button batteries are button cells used primarily for cameras and contain a lithium anode and various types of cathodes and electrolytes. Lithium is a highly reactive metal and when collected with other button cells may present a hazard if not fully discharged. Lithium button cells do not contain mercury.

Recycling options in Pennsylvania include participating in one of our Pennsylvania Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events. The Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program webpage contains a complete list of these HHW collection events. In addition, AERC Recycling Solutions and INMETCO will recycle this battery type for a fee.

Silver Oxide Batteries

Silver oxide batteries are button cells commonly used in watches, calculators and hearing aids. They contain a zinc anode, silver oxide cathode and an alkaline solution for the electrolyte. They also contain a small amount of mercury to prevent the formation of gas.

Most jewelry stores will recycle the silver oxide battery when you bring your watch in to have the battery replaced. Otherwise, this battery type can be taken to one of our Pennsylvania Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events. The Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program webpage contains a complete list of these HHW collection events. In addition, AERC Recycling Solutions will recycle this battery type for a fee.

Zinc-Air Batteries

Zinc-air batteries are button cells used primarily for hearing aids. This battery type has a zinc anode, oxygen from the atmospheric air acts as the cathode and an alkaline solution is used as the electrolyte. This battery type contains about one percent mercury by weight, which serves as a gas suppressant.

Zinc-air batteries can be taken to one of our Pennsylvania Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events. The Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program webpage contains a complete list of these HHW collection events. In addition, AERC Recycling Solutions and INMETCO will recycle this battery type for a fee.

Other useful household battery web site information can be found by clicking on the following links:

Mercury Use In Batteries

Duracell Batteries

If you have any questions on recycling options for household batteries, please contact Charlie Scheidler by telephone at 717-787-0115 or by email at cscheidler@pa.gov.