(zoom to your campus and look for the E-waste Recycling icons)

Don’t forget to tape up the ends of your batteries in order to prevent fire hazards.


Why Recycle Batteries?

Batteries require MUCH more energy during production than they are able to store. In addition, batteries are hard to recycle. It is best to use rechargeable batteries or, even better, to try not to use batteries at all! A battery tester can help determine if your batteries are completely spent. A tester would be particularly useful for offices or student organizations that use lots of batteries.

Heavy Metals in Batteries

Each year billions of used batteries are thrown away in the United States. This constitutes 88% of the mercury and 54% of the cadmium deposited into our landfills.

Batteries contain lead, mercury and cadmium, with smaller amounts of antimony, lithium, cobalt, silver, zinc and other chemicals. Some of these chemicals can cause serious pollution problems. Cadmium, for example, does not degrade and cannot be destroyed. Unless it is deposited in secure waste disposal sites, it can get into the food chain, where it affects all environmental sectors and can damage livers, kidneys, and the brains of humans and fish.

Mercury, too, cannot be destroyed; it contaminates by inhalation or skin contact and lodges in the kidneys and liver. Lead leads to brain damage, hemolysis, lowered resistance to infection and cancer of the lungs and kidneys.

There are well established systems for reclaiming lead acid batteries, although many lead acid batteries are still finding their way into the domestic garbage collections. Dry cell batteries (the ones you think of when you hear the word battery) make up the rest of the domestic market. They are more numerous and varied, and have a complex make-up. Batteries are manufactured by such a wide range of companies and come in so many shapes and colors that sorting them for effective collection and recycling schemes remains a problem.

Types of Disposable Batteries

Alkaline manganese Lead acid Lithum ion Nickel-cadmium Nickel-metal hydride Zinc carbon
Most commonly used batteries in the US. Used in most electronic devices. Used in some electronic devices and large applications. Most common type of recyclable batteries. Used in some electronic devices, laptops, and cellular phones. Used in radios, video camers, and power tools. Contains toxic metals which must be specially recycled. Used in laptops and cellular phones. Includes button cells. Found in calculators and watches.

Tufts Recommends…

If you need to use batteries, use rechargeable ones. Even better is avoiding batteries all together.

At Tufts, all types of batteries are recyclable in battery drop bins located around campus. Alkaline batteries are technically safe to trash, but we maintain an alkaline battery recycling program to keep them out of landfills. In some countries such as Japan, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, batteries are collected separately from other domestic refuse and are disposed of as hazardous waste. In spite of various nickel cadmium battery recycling laws in Sweden and Switzerland, and collection schemes in Germany, Holland and parts of the USA, there are still very few reprocessing facilities.


Click here to read blog posts about batteries and electronics.