Ask Waste Watchers: Learning how to dispose of your batteries the right way
Vail, CO Colorado
Which types of household batteries can be safely discarded with my regular garbage, and which types of batteries should I be recycling?
Brenda in Red Cliff
Thanks for the question, Brenda, and for choosing to dispose of your batteries responsibly. There are about five different types of batteries commonly found in the home and garage. Some should never be thrown away and some can be safely 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 safely discarded with your regular trash or can be recycled. These batteries can be 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 you find one that 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 the element cadmium, which is a toxic heavy metal, a known cancer-causing agent and environmental contaminant. Nickel cadmium batteries should always be recycled and not 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. They are not considered hazardous, but 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 type that you would find in a car or motorcycle. There are also non-spillable gel cells that would be found in the uninterruptible power supply for your computer, wheelchairs and other electric motorized 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 laptop computers, some cell phones and other portable electronic devices. There is some debate about their toxicity, but they do 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.
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 http://www.eaglecounty.us/recyclingwaste for more information.