Office of Risk Management

Battery Recycling and Disposal

Alkaline Batteries

Alkaline batteries can be safely disposed of with normal solid waste. Due to concerns about mercury in the municipal solid waste stream, battery manufacturers eliminated all of the added mercury from alkaline batteries since the early 1990s. Alkaline batteries are composed primarily of common metals — steel, zinc and manganese — and do not pose a health or environmental risk during normal use or disposal.

It is important not to dispose of large amounts of alkaline batteries in a group. Used batteries are often not completely "dead." Grouping used batteries together can bring these "live" batteries into contact with one another, creating safety risks.

Proven cost-effective and environmentally safe recycling processes are not yet universally available for alkaline batteries. One recycling option for alkaline batteries is “The Big Green Box” program. A $58 fee, which includes postage, is charged for a box weighing up to 40 pounds. Information on this program can be found at: http://www.biggreenbox.com

 

Lead Acid Batteries

It is illegal to landfill lead acid batteries or dispose of them in an incinerator.  Up to 97% of a lead acid battery is recyclable. The average weight of a used lead acid battery is 20 pounds. Always recycle your used lead acid batteries to avoid the hazardous waste generator label.

For campuses that purchase lead acid batteries from local retail stores or have them installed at local shops, batteries can be left at the store or shop at no cost. If dropping off a battery without purchasing a new one, the retailer is allowed to charge up to $3. This method should only be used when doing business with a reputable, well run business. It is a good policy to ask where their used batteries are stored and which recycler they use.  

Due to cost considerations, UW System does not recommend using the state agency hazardous waste contract to dispose of lead acid batteries.   If your campus chooses to accumulate batteries for recycling, please follow the management tips and storage guidelines found in the Wisconsin DNR's guidance publication PUBL-WA-385-98.   If you would like assistance in contracting with a reputable recycler, please contact UW System.

Link to DNR information here.:

 

Button Batteries

Although they contain lower levels of hazardous materials than in the past, button batteries still contain small amounts of mercury. The batteries should be recycled through the state's hazardous waste disposal contractor. To safely store and ship the batteries, button batteries should be placed between two layers of clear packing tape. The clear tape will allow the state's contractor to sort the batteries and will keep them from touching each other.

 

Call2Recycle

UW System campuses may use Call2Recycle's free battery recycling program to recycle the four main types of rechargeable batteries.

Call2Recycle is a national non-profit, public service organization created to collect and recycle rechargeable batteries. Call2Recycle's national recycling program is funded through financial support from rechargeable battery manufacturers and retailers. Call2Recycle accepts only the following types of rechargeable batteries:

  • Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd)
  • Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH)
  • Lithium Ion (Li-ion)
  • Small Sealed Lead (2 pound maximum weight per battery)

Rechargeable batteries are commonly used in two-way radios, cellular and cordless phones, remote control toys, laptop computers, hand held scanners, digital cameras, camcorders, and cordless power tools such as drills and screwdrivers.

Call2Recycle does not accept mercury oxide, silver oxide, wet cell rechargeable batteries, lithium primary, alkaline or button type batteries.

You can register for the program on line at www.call2recycle.org or download the registration form and fax it to 1 (877) 405-6082. When you register, Call2Recycle provides you with a site identification number and Department of Transportation (DOT) approved containers for collection and shipment of the batteries. Each box contains a barcode containing your site identification number, pre-addressed/pre-paid shipping labels and sealable small plastic bags to place individual batteries in for storage and shipment. Cell phones can also be recycled along with used rechargeable batteries in the same Call2Recycle box.

A Universal Waste label should be put on the outside of the box or drum. An appropriate label can be printed using this link: Universal Waste Batteries for Recycling Label. MS Word Document

When the box is filled, seal it, attach the address label provided and use UPS to send it. Once the Call2Recycle box is received at Call2Recycle's processor, the barcode is scanned and, based on your site identification number, additional replenishment boxes will be sent to you. (For facilities that collect large quantities of batteries, Call2Recycle will pay the shipping costs for full drums.)

For more information you can visit the Call2Recycle webpage at www.Call2Recycle.com. The Call2Recycle contact person for Wisconsin is Tim Warren. Tim can be contacted at twarren@call2recycle.org or 678-419-9990 x231 or 636-579-9870 (cell)

Silver Oxide, Lithium Primary and Wet Cell Rechargeable Batteries

These batteries should be handled through the state's hazardous waste contractor.

 

For more information on the recycling or disposal of batteries, contact Eileen Norby.

 

This publication was prepared for environmental, health and safety staff at University of Wisconsin System campuses, to assist in finding resources and information for regulatory compliance. It is not intended to render legal advice. (Click here to read full legal disclaimer.)