Dear Tee Cee, I have a box in my garage full of different types of spent batteries that I have been saving because I’m pretty sure they can be recycled somehow, but I thought I’d check with you to ask what I should do with them.
Dear Paul, You’re right — batteries can be recycled, but they need to be taken to specific drop-off locations and definitely cannot go into your curbside recycling bin. Batteries need to be handled carefully as they can leak harmful chemicals and potentially start fires. In particular, Lithium-ion batteries, found in electronics, have become increasingly common contaminants showing up at recycling facilities and landfills and are a primary culprit for starting fires at these facilities. Fires are sparked when pieces of metal touch the battery terminal end and ignite all the flammable material surrounding the battery.
Here are some general safety guidelines and the best places to recycle your different types of batteries:
Boulder County Household Hazardous Materials Facility (HMMF): Located just behind the Boulder County Recycling Center (to the west) at 1901 63rd Street, the HMMF is your one-stop shop to recycle all types of batteries, even the batteries from used e-cigarettes or vapes. Boulder and Broomfield County and Town of Erie residents can use the HMMF at no charge. Please bring proof of address. Visit bouldercounty.gov/environment/hazardous-waste/management-facility/ for a full list of hazardous materials accepted. You might hear that alkaline batteries, such as your AA and AAA batteries can be sent to the landfill, but please recycle them at the HMMF as well. To cut down on alkaline battery waste, try switching to rechargeable batteries which last much longer and are accepted at the HMMF when their charging days are over.
For lithium-ion batteries and any battery over 9 volts, place tape over the terminal ends to avoid creating any sparks. Button batteries should be sandwiched inside two strips of tape. If your batteries are damaged, please put them in a sealed plastic bag to ensure workers aren’t exposed to harmful chemicals.
Longmont Waste Diversion Center (LWDC): The LWDC, located at 140 Martin Street, accepts car batteries and larger rechargeable batteries found in motorcycles and boats. Automotive centers that sell car batteries also recycle old automotive batteries.
Eco-Cycle’s Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials (CHaRM): Electronic appliances, which often contain those fire-starting lithium ion batteries, can be taken to Eco-Cycle’s CHaRM. Do NOT remove batteries from the electronic device before recycling. Visit ecocycle.org/charm to for fees and a full list of materials accepted.
If you’d like to learn more about other hard-to-recycle materials, download Eco-Cycle’s A-Z Recycling Guide app, email Eco-Cycle at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call at 303-444-6634.
— Tee Cee
Have recycling or composting questions? Recycle@ecocycle.org has the answers.