Ask Waste Watchers: Different batteries call for different disposal methods |

Ask Waste Watchers: Different batteries call for different disposal methods

With all the electronic gadgets and toys around the house, my family seems to be generating quite a few batteries. Can you refresh my memory on which batteries can be safely discarded in the regular garbage and which types should be recycled?

Linda in Eagle

Thanks for the great question, Linda, and for choosing to dispose of your batteries responsibly.

There are five main types of batteries commonly found in the home. Some can be safely thrown away, some should never be thrown away, but all can be recycled free of charge to Eagle County residents at the Household Hazardous Waste facility.

The most common type of household battery is the alkaline battery, which can be discarded safely with your regular trash or recycled. These batteries are found in flashlights, toys and clock radios. Alkaline batteries are not considered toxic to the environment, but they do contain solid potassium hydroxide, which is corrosive. If an alkaline battery is leaking, it is advisable to avoid contact with your skin.

Nickel-cadmium batteries can be found in some cordless tools and rechargeable electronic devices. These batteries contain cadmium, which is a toxic heavy metal, known cancer-causing agent and environmental contaminant. Nickel-cadmium batteries should always be recycled and never discarded with regular garbage.

Nickel-metal-hydride batteries can also be found in some cordless tools, cell phones and other electronic devices. They are a less hazardous alternative to nickel-cadmium batteries. While not considered hazardous, the landfill prefers that you recycle them rather than putting them in with regular trash.

Lead acid batteries are common around the home and garage. They can be the spillable wet-cell type that you find in a car or motorcycle or the nonspillable gel cells that are found in the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for your computer, wheelchairs and other electric vehicles. Both the wet and gel cells contain corrosive sulfuric acid and the toxic heavy metal lead. This type of battery should always be recycled and never discarded with your regular garbage.

Lithium ion batteries can be found in laptops, cell phones and other portable electronic devices. Although uncommon, these types of batteries have the potential to start fires when overheated. Since the fire potential is real, always recycle lithium batteries and do not discard them with regular trash.

We would like to thank all Eagle County residents, small businesses and schools (especially Red Sandstone Elementary) that recycled their batteries at the Household Hazardous Waste facility in 2011. Roughly 3,000 pounds of alkaline batteries, 1,500 pounds of rechargeable batteries, and about 100 automobile and motorcycle batteries were diverted from the landfill.

Joseph Walls is hazardous-waste specialist at the Eagle County Household Hazardous Waste facility, located at the landfill in Wolcott. The facility is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Call 970-328-3468 or visit for information.

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