Don’t throw household batteries into the garbage. Here’s how to safely dispose of them

Whether they’re for smoke detectors, kids toys or kitchen gadgets, batteries get a lot of use in local households. But there are several important reasons why used batteries should not be thrown away in regular garbage bins.

“Many people don’t realize that batteries are considered hazardous,” said Jesa David from the City of Sacramento’s Recycling and Solid Waste Division.That’s because of the metals and other corrosive or toxic materials they contain, such as lead or cadmium, which can leak or be vaporized and carried on the wind if they are not disposed of properly.”

Common batteries such as AAA, AA, C, D, and 9-volt are banned from household trash and must be treated as household hazardous waste, David said. Car batteries and other types of single use and rechargeable batteries are also treated as hazardous.

In the hotter months, improperly disposed of batteries can pose the additional risk of exploding or catching fire. A battery may be met with other metal in a garbage bag, potentially causing it to overheat.

“Once in a while a resident will leave a battery in their garbage, and it can catch fire in the truck or at the landfill,” David said. “We remind residents to douse embers and let hot items cool down before putting them the trash to prevent fires, but I think people forget about batteries as a potential fire source.”

Batteries are also potentially a valuable source of recyclable metal — another reason to ensure their proper disposal.

Here’s how to reduce battery waste:

  • Purchase rechargeable batteries. Any device powered by a AAA, AA, C, D and 9-volt batteries can be powered by rechargeable batteries.
  • Look to purchase devices that do not require batteries; some devices use a capacitor that is recharged through normal use or by plugging into a power source.

Batteries are part of a category designated “universal waste,” which also includes fluorescent lamps, cathode ray tubes and other items. To learn where to dispose of these items, check on the Waste Wizard.

Prior to the pandemic, single-use batteries could be dropped off at Sacramento community centers. Currently, community centers are open to preregistered activities and the City will reassess re-opening to the public as health conditions change. Residents can drop off batteries at City Hall (915 I Street) and Department of Utilities (1395 35th Ave.).

Battery recycling drop-off locations are free to City of Sacramento residential customers and apply only to household batteries that are generated at residences (no business waste).

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