Disposing of Used Batteries
March 8, 2004 6:11 PM   Subscribe

What exactly is the proper way to dispose of my used Duracell AA batteries? I go through them pretty fast and I'd hate to think they were sitting somewhere corroding and leaking acid down to the earth's core or something (I know very little about how batteries work, obviously). What should I be doing with them? It's not as easy as tossing them in the trash, is it?
posted by Slimemonster to Science & Nature (16 answers total)
Radio Shack will take them.
Otherwise, call your local Department of Public Works or whoever manages trash collection and disposal and ask them.
posted by plinth at 6:15 PM on March 8, 2004

have you thought about rechargeables at all? after the initial outlay for a couple of sets and the charger, you could save yourself a bundle and save the earth's core.
posted by heather at 6:21 PM on March 8, 2004

Depends on where you live, many european countries have separate disposal for chemical waste: Stuff like batteries, solvents, medicine. If you don't have this, ask whatever part of your council or other local government is responsible for waste disposal.
posted by fvw at 6:25 PM on March 8, 2004

you could also check your local hardware store. the ace hardware around the corner accepts batteries.
posted by heather at 6:27 PM on March 8, 2004

Incidentally, there's a lot less hospitable stuff in the earth's core than battery acids. It's the earth's surface we should be worrying about.
posted by fvw at 6:27 PM on March 8, 2004

My city has recycling depots, and all of them have a 50 gallon container for used batteries. So I guess my answer for you is to move here.
posted by crunchland at 6:28 PM on March 8, 2004

i second the suggestion for rechargables. i've had very good experiences with them.
posted by o2b at 6:46 PM on March 8, 2004

Batteries vary in content. Li-ion batteries, like the ones in laptops, contain Lithium, which is quite toxic . Button batteries, like the ones in hearing aids, often contain toxic Mercury. Ni-Cad batteries are made with the very toxic Nickel and Cadmium. These toxic batteries should be taken to Radio Shack or another participating vendor.

Alkaline batteries are not appallingly toxic. Domestically manufactured alkaline batteries made after 1994 no longer contain mercury and can be disposed of in the trash. You can also make a real effort to minimize battery use, and use recharge-ables.
posted by theora55 at 6:55 PM on March 8, 2004

Okay, this question kicks ass, 'cuz I've always wondered: Can you just bust them open and mix them with lime (or something else extremely basic)?! Seriously.

Lots easier to take 'em to RadioShack though, huh?
posted by Shane at 7:08 PM on March 8, 2004

Domestically manufactured alkaline batteries made after 1994 no longer contain mercury

Thanks theora55 - I've been wondering about that for a while.
posted by scarabic at 8:28 PM on March 8, 2004

One authoritative answer to the original question is Duracell's MSDS and safety data for their batteries (MSDS link is PDF).

(Thanks, theora55, the battery pack often says "contains no mercury" in tiny letters, and I've wondered how long it's been since they did contain mercury.)

Shane - there are a zillion different battery chemistries out there and they aren't all acidic. Car batteries have electrodes of lead (toxic, duh) and copper (less toxic) with sulfuric acid between them (not so much toxic as caustic). Alkaline batteries (the most common kind of non-rechargeables these days) have electrodes of zinc (not toxic IIRC) and potassium hydroxide (caustic, and extremely basic, but there's only a little of it), along with magnanese dioxide and graphite. The older carbon-zinc (LeClanche, zinc-chloride, etc.) cells were similar except with some "slightly acidic" chloride instead of the KOH.
posted by hattifattener at 10:25 PM on March 8, 2004

Shane: Firstly, it's not the acidness of certain battery components that makes them toxic, it's the heavy metals contained in them. Also, aren't limes reasonably acidic?
posted by fvw at 11:01 PM on March 8, 2004

T'anks, hattifattener & fvw. I was only half-serious. But, yes, fvw, lime is basic, and is often used by gardeners to make soil more "sweet" or alkaline.

Milk is actually pretty well neutral, but even so, it is still sometimes prescribed as an antidote to acids as well: welders welding galvanized (as in galvanic acid) metals were at one time told by their bosses to drink milk every day, as galvanized coating cooks right off. And I think I remember a scene in Das Boot in which milk was dumped into the submarine's bilge water, which had become contaminated with battery acid.
posted by Shane at 9:06 AM on March 9, 2004

If you're really hammering batteries and want to be environmentally careful you could consider rechargeables that work with solar power. A bit expensive up front but no ongoing electricity costs and it means you can recharge on the move if desired.
posted by biffa at 9:25 AM on March 9, 2004

fvw: Limes (the fruit) are acidic, but I think Shane meant lime (the chemical), which is basic.
posted by vorfeed at 12:44 PM on March 9, 2004

Yes, I just realised that as I was rereading the thread. Feeling rather stupid now..
posted by fvw at 12:26 AM on March 12, 2004

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