If you have electronic or electrical devices and items in your home, chances are high that it runs on battery power. Smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide detectors usually take a 9-volt battery, and every household has multiple devices. Your laptop and smartphone likely have a lithium-ion battery. Your desktop computer has a cell battery. 

Solar lights probably have batteries in the solar charger as a backup. Flashlights will take batteries or have a lithium-ion battery if it’s rechargeable. Smartwatches, bathroom scales, remotes, and rechargeable power tools all rely on batteries. Electric or hybrid vehicles and electric yard equipment like snow blowers and lawnmowers also use batteries.

Americans are great at recycling lead batteries (99% recycling rate), but lithium-ion battery recycling rates are less than 15%. 

Understanding the Different Types of Batteries

There are three main categories of batteries:


Automotive batteries have the highest recycling rate. They’re often lead-acid batteries found in cars, lawn tractors, snowmobiles, and backup power sources. As they contain sulfuric acid and lead, they cannot go in the trash and must be carefully handled. Recycle this type of battery at a vehicle battery retailer or hazardous waste facility.

Hybrid and electric vehicles use medium and large-scale lithium-ion batteries. These batteries have to be recycled, too. But, a consumer doesn’t often worry about it as the batteries can only be removed by an EV dealer or professional mechanic. They handle the recycling of these batteries.


Rechargeable batteries are the batteries you find in rechargeable devices like smartwatches, digital cameras, solar panels, medical devices, cell phones, tablets, laptops, power tools, and e-readers. There are different types of rechargeable batteries.

  • Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) – Found in older cell phones, digital cameras, vapes, e-readers, tablets, laptops, and power tools
  • Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) – Found in cordless phones, cameras, medical equipment, two-way radios, and power tools
  • Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) – Found in older cell phones, cordless tools, two-way radios, and digital cameras
  • Nickel-Zinc (Ni-Zn) – Found in digital cameras, wireless keyboards, and other wireless electronic devices
  • Small-Sealed Lead Acid (Pb) – Usually found in mobility scooters, emergency lighting, and medical devices


Single-use batteries are the ones you’re very familiar with. It’s the 9-volts you put in your smoke detectors, the AA and AAA batteries in your remotes and alarm clocks, and C-cell and D-cell batteries in kids’ toys. Most of them are alkaline and zinc-carbon batteries. Button cells found in watches, hearing aids, and key fobs used to be a mix of cadmium, mercury, and silver, but it’s more common for them to be lithium metal cell batteries.

These batteries are one-and-done and cannot be recharged. For this reason, most people toss them into the trash when they’re no longer offering any charge. You shouldn’t throw them out. You should cover the ends in electrical tape and recycle them. Battery recycling is important for four key reasons.

The Four Important Benefits of Battery Recycling

Every battery you have needs to be recycled. Don’t throw them in the trash. When you recycle them, you’re helping do your part in these four ways.

  1. Pollution is Reduced

Batteries have a metal shell, plastic components, heavy metals, and chemicals within them. Depending on the type of battery, the components vary. If they’re thrown into the trash and allowed to deteriorate in a landfill, materials like cadmium, lead, mercury, and silver can leach into the groundwater and soil. 

  1. Facility and Truck Fires Are Less Common

When you throw away a battery, it could spark a fire if ruptured by the garbage truck. This is especially true of Li-ion batteries. A quick scan of national news often finds multiple fires in garbage trucks, hauled waste facilities, and recycling facilities. 

In a recent fire, a laptop battery triggered a fire in an Ohio garbage truck causing the driver to have to dump the burning load of trash in a parking lot. A 2018 Californian study found that 83% of the state’s recycling facilities had experienced a fire in a two-year period, and 65% of those fires were caused by improper battery disposal.

When a fire occurs in a truck or facility, it puts people’s lives at risk. It can cause millions in damage that ends up costing taxpayers. Plus, the smoke and fumes from the fires can spread for miles. As it’s simple to recycle batteries, there’s no need to risk people’s safety and environmental damage.

  1. Conservation of Resources Occurs

Recycling batteries can also help conserve natural resources by creating a circular economy. Batteries also contain cobalt, lithium, and graphite. 

Start with cobalt, a mineral that the U.S. stopped mining in 1982 due to environmental pollution. After this, the Democratic Republic of Congo became the leading supplier of cobalt, but the industry relied heavily on child labor. Millions were used to clean up Jervios Global’s Idaho cobalt mine site, but it’s only expected to supply 10% of the cobalt that is needed for battery manufacturing. 

Similar shortfalls face lithium and graphite. U.S. lithium demand is expected to reach 306,000 tons by 2050, but current production rates are just over 100,000 tons per year. The U.S. only has one operating lithium mind. Ninety-five percent of the world’s production occurs in Argentina, Australia, Chile, and China.

Graphite is a material that can be mined or man-made. Synthetic graphite is a petroleum byproduct. Because of the increase in EVs, it’s a material that, even when manufactured, faces shortages.

When you recycle batteries, these materials can be collected and reused. It lowers the dependence on mining and graphite manufacturing.

  1. The Economy Benefits Through Job Creation and Revenue Generation

To recycle batteries, you need manpower. Recycling creates jobs, and it generates revenue that can go into the local economy. Plus, people who needed jobs and an income now have the funds to put towards local goods. 

How many jobs can be created through battery recycling and the creation of new EV batteries using recycled materials? It’s estimated that a next-gen battery manufacturer will create more than 700 jobs in Georgia. A plant in West Virginia is estimated to be adding more than 750 jobs. A New York lithium-ion battery recycling facility is adding 270 jobs. That’s just three new facilities, imagine the possibility.

The Future of Battery Recycling

Battery recycling is the future. Researchers are continually looking for ways to improve the life of EV batteries. Silicon is one of the materials being studied as a way of reducing the size of EV batteries while also increasing driving range. 

People also must be part of the future of battery recycling. An effective recycling industry relies on supplying facilities with batteries and electronics to recycle and supporting a circular economy by purchasing items that contain recycled materials. 

Make sure you’re recycling all of your batteries. Find your local hazardous waste facility and bring all of your batteries to those facilities for proper recycling. For smaller batteries, such as single-use batteries, bring them to battery recycling drop-off bins at participating retailers. Home Depot and Ace hardware stores both offer battery recycling. 

If you need help finding your local battery recycling drop-off, Recycle Nation can help. Type in “battery” in the search bar and enter your ZIP code. You’ll get a list of locations near you as well as their contact information and hours.