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Should I recycle old batteries?

The metals and chemicals in batteries present an opportunity, and a problem. How do you separate the two and establish a new path to reuse? Some communities are recognizing the recycling value is higher than disposal in a landfill. Northeast Ohio could learn from places like San Diego which banned alkaline batteries from the landfill and is working with private companies to increase the number of local recycling opportunities.

The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District and its Zero Waste NEO community effort could help by re-defining the idea of waste. Practically speaking, there are a number of case studies, such as Zerolandfill Cleveland, that created a system where trash found a new life as usable materials. In Zerolandfill's case, sample books from architecture firms are now art supplies for schools.

We appreciate the Solid Waste District's helpful, What do I do with it? online guide. It points out that

  • The chemicals in alkaline batteries are inert and don't add contamination if thrown in a landfill.
  • Rechargeable batteries should be recycled.
  • Laws were needed to require the proper disposal of batteries with heavy metal toxins. That law created opportunity and jobs for hazardous waste handling.

Thinking of a future with zero waste, what is the business case for recycling the common alkaline battery?

By refocusing the question on 'green jobs', can we convince our local officials and cities, who pay dues to the Solid Waste District, that used alkaline batteries can be a new source of material for area manufacturers? 


Here's the dominant thinking about common alkaline batteries. How can we rethink this approach in a Zero Waste frame?

A United States federal law in 1996 banned adding mercury to alkaline batteries. With the absence of toxic mercury, alkaline batteries are safe for municipal landfills.

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