Missoula Technology and Development Center Facilities Toolbox: Hazardous Substances in Buildings
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What should I do with dead batteries?

Image of the + (positive) end of several batteries.Batteries come in several different types. Proper disposal depends on the type of battery you have.

Ordinary Batteries: Regular alkaline, manganese, and carbon-zinc batteries are not considered hazardous waste and can be disposed of with ordinary trash.

Other common single use or rechargeable batteries such as lithium and button batteries are recyclable, but access to recycling may not be available in all locations. You may be able to take these batteries to a household hazardous waste collection event or drop-off location sponsored by your county, city, waste disposal district/company, or health department.

"Universal Waste" Batteries: Nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) and small sealed lead-acid (SSLA) rechargeable batteries are considered "universal waste". These batteries are commonly encountered in emergency lighting, exit signs, security systems, and alarms. They are expensive to purchase, but are rechargeable. Overall they may save the use of hundreds of disposable batteries over their lifetimes, providing good life-cycle cost effectiveness. All "universal waste" batteries produced since 1997 must include the following wording on their labels: "BATTERY MUST BE RECYCLED" or "BATTERY MUST BE RECYCLED OR DISPOSED OF PROPERLY". You can search for local rechargeable battery recycling facilities by zip code at Earth 911. Refer to the "Everyday Hazmat User's Guide" for more information about Ni-Cd and SSLA battery disposal and universal waste.

Rechargeable Ni-Cd and SSLA batteries contain lead and/or cadmium, which can leak, be vaporized and carried on the wind, or leach from incinerator waste if they are disposed of improperly. During recycling, the heavy metals are removed from the batteries so the metals don't escape into the environment.

Health Issues: Lead and cadmium are toxic heavy metals that can cause severe health effects depending on the total concentration a person is exposed to over time. The effects of cadmium depend on whether it was ingested or inhaled.

Lead affects every organ in the body, especially the central nervous system. Cadmium affects the digestive and excretory systems and lungs. Both can cause cancer. The effects of lead and cadmium exposure on fetuses and young children include delays in physical and mental development, lower IQ levels, shortened attention spans, and increased behavioral problems.


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