Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How to Safely Recycle Batteries

This week we've reached the third "R" - the one that is the most talked about these days - and of course that's recycling (if you've missed the first two - reduce and reuse, those are especially important, so be sure to check out our earlier posts in the series). Once you've done everything you can to reduce your production of waste, and reuse or re-purpose whatever you can, now it's time to recycle whatever's left. (Oh yes, and of course don't forget when it comes to kitchen and food waste, the ultimate and best form of recycling is composting! We talk a lot more about that on our sustainable gardening blog, so be sure to check that out as well - just click any of the tags below the article to pull up more articles on that topic.)

By now, most people are pretty familiar with how to recycle plastic, paper, and glass, but what about electronics and batteries? This week we'll focus on these newer and trickier categories of recyclables, and how you can keep these items and their potentially dangerous chemical ingredients out of our landfills.

Electric batteries.
Batteries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many people don’t think about it all that much and just throw batteries away.  This is not only bad for the environment, it’s also dangerous if kids or pets get into the garbage and get a hold of them. We all know not to even touch battery acid if it leaks, so why would we just throw these toxic chemicals out into the landfill where they can leach into the soil and groundwater?

In addition to battery acid, the metals of batteries can be dangerous when left to leak into the soil.  Heavy metals can get into your soil, water and even into your food. 

Instead of throwing out your batteries, you can simply recycle them.  This keeps those dangerous poisons out of the environment and reduces the amount of trash in landfills.  In fact, many places now consider batteries a form of hazardous waste and prohibit them being thrown away; however, even in these areas, very few batteries are being recycled.

If you get a large battery replaced, like in your car or boat, make sure you know what’s happening to your old battery.  While it may cost you a small fee, you should be able to ensure your battery is properly recycled after it’s taken out of your vehicle.  There are many companies that now offer services to help companies recycle batteries.  You can find a place that already recycles, or encourage your mechanic to do so.

Other batteries might take a little more effort to recycle.  You will likely need to take them to a hazardous waste recycling station.  While you may not have a clue of where to find them, a quick online search will help you find local drop offs where you can take your batteries.  If it’s far away or a bit of a hassle to get to, you can have a place in your house to store dead batteries until you have enough to take over.  Just remember not to let them sit too long because they can begin to deteriorate and become dangerous.

You may also find that local businesses will recycle batteries for you.  There are companies that will set up recycling for businesses for a low price, so they may offer to recycle for you if you can get your batteries into the store.  If you look around, you may find a convenient location so you don’t have to go all the way to a recycling center.

English: Rechargeable batteries Português: Pil...
Rechargeable batteries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
And when it comes to household batteries, why not just use rechargeables?  Sure, you’re going to eventually have to throw them away, but throwing away one set of batteries is a whole lot less of a mess than throwing out fifty.  It used to be the case that rechargeables were a pain to charge up and didn’t last long, but technology has improved significantly.  Now you can get speed chargers that get your batteries fully charged in just a few minutes and last as long as a regular battery.

Once you’ve safely recycled your batteries, keep going.  Everything in your home from electronics to fluorescent light bulbs can be recycled to provide us with a safer, cleaner world.  So start researching and get recycling!

For how to recycle electronics, be sure to check back Thursday.

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