Alkaline batteries, also known as single-use batteries, are the batteries you use each day in things like smoke detectors, remotes, and portable radios. When they run out of energy, it used to be commonplace to throw them into the household trash. In some communities, it’s what people are told to do.

Trashing alkaline batteries isn’t the best idea. Alkaline batteries contain high-density manganese dioxide, potassium hydroxide, and zinc. There is a steel casing, paper, and plastic within the entire battery. While all of these are classified as non-toxic by battery manufacturers, it’s not quite that easy.

Potassium hydroxide, aka potash or lye, is corrosive and produces poisonous gases if incinerated. When an alkaline battery leaks, the potassium hydroxide is the material you see. Miners exposed to high levels of manganese experienced Parkinson’s-like symptoms. Zinc poisoning is rare, but extremely high levels can lead to lethargy, nausea, and vomiting.

None of this needs to be in a landfill where it could end up leaching into groundwater or soil. There are private-public partnerships that make single-use battery recycling possible. Communities and businesses need to stop recommending residents place batteries in the trash and instead encourage alkaline battery recycling programs.

How Are Batteries Recycled?

What steps go into battery recycling? When you have spent AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt batteries that are single-use, they’re taken to a sorting station to be separated from rechargeable batteries. The alkaline batteries are sent to a facility where they’re processed.

The first step is to separate the internal powder from the external metal casing. The batteries go through a hammer mill before moving to a conveyor belt where strong magnets are positioned above the belt. The magnets capture the metal casings. Plastic and paper can be processed separately for reuse.

The casings go to another process to recover the steel and use it to make new products. The remaining powder is processed to recover items like zinc oxide and manganese, which can be added to other products by combining them into pellets.

Recycled batteries end up in the aggregate used to repair and create roads. It can be turned into sunscreen. It all starts with community recycling programs where people drop them off at a collections center, the collections center sends them to be sorted and recorded before they go to a processing center for recycling.

The Benefits of Private-Public Partnerships for Recycling Batteries

Battery recycling protects the environment and ensures we don’t run out of natural resources, but that’s just a small part of it. Battery recycling plants need workers, so it’s a good way to create jobs. It creates tax revenues that go back into the nation’s infrastructure and environmental protection agencies.

A private-public partnership (PPP) is one where government agencies and private companies team up to share resources and strategies. Because they work together, it helps spread awareness among people within a community. You may not realize that alkaline batteries can be recycled. It can be confusing when local trash haulers tell you to throw them out and don’t point out the programs. PPPs help make sure everyone is aware there are programs.

Is There a Program in Your Area?

Save your batteries and go to’s locator. Enter your ZIP code and click “Search” to see where you can bring your battery. A list of locations, contact information, driving directions, and icons for the items they accept appear. You might be surprised by how easy it is. Many retailers take them, including:

  • Ace Hardware
  • Home Depot
  • Lowe’s
  • Staples

If you have a local recycling center, it’s a strong possibility that they also accept recycled alkaline batteries. It’s uncommon for a state recycling agency to refuse them. 

Not every state has laws regarding battery recycling. It helps to look up your state’s laws, which is easy using Call2Recycle’s state guide. Some states require producer-funded or provided battery recycling: This ensures the manufacturers pay for recycling.

  • California
  • Florida
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Washington D.C.

Other states require battery recycling but don’t make it the producer’s responsibility. 

  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Federal regulations mandate the recycling of rechargeable batteries and devices containing mercury. The EPA even states that alkaline and zinc-carbon batteries “can safely be put in your trash.” People overlook the EPA’s recommendation that those batteries should be sent to a battery recycler.

When you can’t place something in your curbside recycling container, people often throw it in the trash, even though that’s a bad habit. It can seem like there are no other options. There are, however. Call2Recycle is a good place to find where to recycle your used alkaline batteries.

Have You Heard of Call2Recycle?

When it comes to a battery recycling PPP, Call2Recycle is the best known and available in both Canada and the U.S. It’s an R2 program, meaning everything is recycled safely and properly, which protects people and the environment.

Call2Recycle was founded in 1994. Hundreds of battery and electronics manufacturers work with the organization to ensure all kinds of batteries are collected, transported, and recycled correctly. Alkaline is just one type of battery accepted by Call2Recycle. The organization also collects and recycles:

  • Lithium ion
  • Lithium single-use cells
  • Nickel cadmium
  • Nickel metal hydride
  • Nickel zinc
  • Small sealed lead acid

Considerations Before You Recycle

Before you recycle, see if it’s required that you tape over the terminals on the battery. Some recyclers ask for this to keep the terminals from connecting during transportation. Whether or not it is required comes down to how they transport them to the e-waste company.

If you have a corroded battery, it can still be recycled. However, corroded alkaline batteries require special handling. It’s best to call a recycling facility first and see if they accept them. It’s possible they can’t, but will have recommendations on where you can go.

OneDrum™ containers contain CellBlockEx®, which is a fire-extinguishing agent made from recycled glass. It makes it possible to transport mixed batteries safely without the risk of a fire setting an entire truck or recycling facility on fire. OneDrum™ is a partnership between Call2Recycle and ERI.

Companies who have large quantities of batteries to recycle should talk to ERI. If you want to start setting up a battery recycling collection in your municipality, we can also help. There’s an online form to fill out or you can call to learn more.