Part 3: Finding a Battery Recycler

November 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Batteries, Blog, Front Page, Hazardous Waste, Landfill, Tips

Automotive lead-acid batteries waiting to be recycled. Photo credit: Joe Hennager.

Automotive lead-acid batteries waiting to be recycled. Photo credit: Joe Hennager.

Finding a battery recycling center sometimes feels like looking for Waldo in a crowd wearing red-and-white striped sweaters. In most cities and towns, there are recycling centers that accept almost everything. But battery recyclers can be elusive.

Just about as fast as you learn that a certain chain of stores is accepting batteries, you find out that they no longer provide that service. Or you’ll hear that another chain accepts all batteries, only to find they are won’t recycle alkaline batteries. The only slam-dunk in the battery recycling business sees to be rechargeables. Lead-acid automotive batteries aren’t far behind, with at least 38 states requiring retailers to accept used car batteries for recycling, at the time of this post.

If you look around long enough, you’ll eventually find recyclers who take all types of batteries, even for the common alkaline type, though they’re hardly on every corner. Be aware that some recyclers charge for the service. Here’s a brief overview of some of the major battery recyclers who advertise on the Internet.

Free Recycling for Rechargeables

More than 50,000 retailers in the U.S. accept rechargeable batteries through the Call2Recycle program, sponsored by the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC). Go to the Call2Recycle website to enter your zip code and find a battery drop-off center near you. (Note: This service is free from RBRC at the time of this post. Check with your local battery recycler to find out whether there is a fee.)

The following retail chains are listed by RBRC as participating, but individual stores may not. It’s best to call ahead.

Recycle rechargeable batteries at a retailer near you. Photo credit: Joe Hennager.

Recycle rechargeable batteries at a retailer near you. Photo credit: Joe Hennager.

  • Batteries Plus
  • Best Buy
  • Black & Decker
  • Bosch
  • Circuit City
  • Home Depot
  • London Drugs
  • Lowe’s
  • Milwaukee Electric Tool
  • Office Depot
  • Office Max
  • RadioShack
  • Sears
  • Sony Style
  • Staples
  • Target
  • Zellers

Prepaid Recycling

Big Green Box: Purchase a box (big and white, with a green recycling logo on it) that you can keep in your home or office. Collect your batteries in the United Nations-approved box until it’s full. Then return the full box, prepaid, to Big Green Box by UPS. “The Big Green Box is an international program that offers to companies, consumers, municipalities and other generators a low cost and easy way to provide electronics and battery recycling for themselves as well as their customers.” You can be confident that your batteries will be shipped and recycled safely. Current cost at the time of this writing is about $58 for a 40 lb. box. (NOTE: Big Green Box does NOT accept batteries that are military grade, strictly mercury, or strictly lithium.)

EasyPak Battery Recycling Bucket: Prepaid shipping helps keep this system convenient for customers. You get a white plastic bucket that holds 55 lbs. of dry-cell batteries (including AA, AAA, C, D, 9-volt, alkaline, nickel, cadmium, iron, nickel metal hydride, silver, and zinc carbon. The current price is $94.99, though customers can get a 10% discount for ordering 5 at one time. The EasyPak bucket is sold only in the continental United States, except in Maine. Shipments are made by FedEx Ground.

SmartRecycle System: Battery Solutions provides this prepaid recycling system for businesses. Customers can purchase any of three sizes of containers: a medium, counter-top box, or a bright-blue 35- or 55-gallon pail. Businesses can also purchase collection tubes for employees to drop off their individual batteries to be carried to a central location. SmartRecycle accepts both rechargeable and disposable household batteries (button cells, 9-volts, AAA, AA, D, and C); rechargeable battery packs (from laptops, cameras, power tools, and cell phones); hand-held electronics, such as iPods, pagers, PDAs, and cell phones; and other dry-cell batteries. Shipping is by FedEx in U.N.-approved containers.

Toxco: This company has been recycling batteries since 1994. They use “certified recycling techniques for material recovery.” Toxco is “still the only company in the World that can recycle any size or type of lithium battery.” In addition, the company recycles “usable materials from not only lithium, but also; alkaline, nickel cadmium, nickel metal-hydride, lead, mercury and most other batteries.”

Other Recyclers

A careful search on the Internet or in your phone book may present you with other options for recycling batteries. If you decide to invest in a pre-paid service like those described above, consider getting together with your friends, family, or neighbors to share the cost. Most families don’t go through nearly enough batteries in a year to fill a box or a pail, but a large-enough group might just fill a pail once or twice a year.

In fact, this could be a profitable fundraiser, as well as a great service project for a youth group or community organization.  If you are considering battery recycling as a fundraiser, you might want to contact the recycling companies to learn about how many batteries their container will hold. Then poll your organization to find out whether there’s enough interest before making the investment. Ask for donations to cover the cost of purchasing prepaid recycling materials. (Note: A responsible adult should always oversee the collection and storing of hazardous materials. See Safety Tips for Battery Recycling for more information.)

Part 1: Much Ado about Batteries

Part 2: The Inside Scoop on Batteries

Part 3: Finding a Battery Recycler

Part 4: Safety Tips for Battery Recycling

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)