What to do with all those old batteries?

Keep Batteries Out of Bins!

Batteries and products that contain batteries cannot be disposed of in trash or recycling bins. Batteries that enter are waste stream pose a significant safety threat because they are responsible for rising occurrences of fires and environmental contamination. 

Batteries are considered as hazardous wastes under the category of universal wastes in California because of the materials they are made from. Acids, lead, nickel, lithium and mercury to name a few are dangerous and toxic. When batteries are subjected to the heat, pressure, an machinery of a garbage or recycling truck or become punctured or pierced by waste sorting machinery, they can spark and ignite a fire. 

Additionally, the dangerous and toxic components of batteries will leach into the environment when not disposed of properly. This not only contaminates the soil and water systems, but have the potential to affect our health and well-being through accumulation in wildlife and the food we eat.


AAA, AA, C, D, button cell, 9-volt, rechargeable batteries, single batteries, car batteries, motorcycle batteries, scooter batteries, e-cigarette and vape batteries.


Battery Recycling is becoming increasingly more safe, convenient and accessible. On September 19, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law the Responsible Battery Recycle Act of 2022 and Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003: covered battery-embedded products. When in effect, these two laws will increase the number of battery collection sites throughout California. 

Here’s where you can recycle batteries in San Diego: 

  • Libraries: 14 county libraries in San Diego accept standard alkaline batteries, drop them off in the drop-off bin inside
  • O’Reilly’s Auto Parts Store: Most O’Reilly’s recycle household batteries as well as lead acid automotive batteries. Remember to call before you go to make sure your local O’Reilly’s are accepting batteries for recycling
  • Many electronic stores in San Diego can take batteries for recycling. Visit WasteFreeSD.org to find a store near you
  • Household Hazardous Waste Facilities: Hazardous waste facilities accept all types of batteries. Always bring damaged batteries to HHW facilities. Visit WasteFreeSD.org to find out which facility you can go to
  • The Big Green Box: An easy and convenient 3-step process to dispose of all types of batteries (excluding automotive batteries) – purchase a box, fill the box, ship the box. The company Retriev Technologies then uses a diverse array of technologies to ensure each battery component is recovered in the most environmentally sound way possible
  • Battery Solutions: Similar to The Big Green Box – purchase a box, fill the box, ship the box. They offer different container sizes to suit the needs of not only regular households but industries as well



  • Store household batteries in their original packaging so they are out of contact with other batteries. 
  • Make sure the batteries are stored with all the positive ends facing the same direction. 
  • Avoid storing batteries with metal objects because contact can cause batteries to short circuit and lead to leakage. 
  • Do not ever mix damaged batteries with other batteries. This again could result in short circuiting and cause fires or worse explosions. 
  • If batteries are leaking, handle them with care by wearing gloves, then place them in a clear plastic bag to be transported to your local hazardous waste collection facility. 
  • For  extra step safety, you could place the bag in non-flammable material such as sand or kitty litter.

The Low Down on Recycling Lithium Ion Batteries

Big news out of San Diego recently hit the recycling world. Zheng Chen, an assistant professor and nano-engineer from UCSD has developed a new method to recycle lithium-ion batteries. More specifically, according to a report by the San Diego Union Tribune, “He has developed a way to recycle used cathodes from spent lithium-ion batteries and restore them to the point that they work as good as new.” Considering those cathodes contain cobalt, a rare earth metal with a finite supply, this type of recycling has a momentous impact on the future of the tech world, most notably electric vehicles.

Electric vehicles use lithium-ion batteries that use rare earth metals like cobalt that have a finite supply.

So what does this mean for you? Well, maybe you saw an article headline and figured you can start tossing your lithium-ion batteries into your blue bin (false!). Or maybe you’re confused because you thought you already recycled all of your batteries. While the energy in the battery itself may not be reusable (at a large scale just yet), the materials themselves are 100% recyclable. With lithium-ion batteries powering many cell phones, laptops, power tools, and other electronics, it is likely we all have a few of these floating around our home. However, according to Chen, less than 3% of lithium-ion batteries around the world are recycled. For that reason, it’s important for us all to have accurate information on the proper way to handle these batteries at the end of their lifespan. We enlisted our friends over at Universal Waste Disposal Company to help us give you the low down on recycling lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable.

Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable, but even rechargeable batteries have a lifespan. Once a lithium-ion battery is completely spent or degraded, it should be properly stored until it is able to be recycled. While you cannot simply recycle these in your blue bin, according to California Law (AB1125)  most retailers that sell rechargeable batteries are required to accept and recycle these consumer batteries. If you prefer a drop off option, you can check with local retailers to find one that accepts lithium-ion batteries. For pick up recycling services, businesses like UWDC specialize in universal waste recycling.

Until you are able to recycle your lithium-ion batteries, it is extremely important to store them properly. You’ve probably heard stories of cell phones exploding or catching fire. This is related to the battery within the phone. When lithium-ion batteries “catch fire” or “explode” they are experiencing thermal runaway. Thermal runaway is essentially a chemical reaction inside the battery producing heat that causes additional chemical reactions that result in increasing heat until there is nothing left to react. So be very cautious if your device begins smoking, sizzling or popping. Stay alert! Lithium-ion battery packs typically contain several cells. If your device does catch fire, even though one cell may be extinguished, the residual heat may cause thermal runaway in the adjacent cells.

The number of lithium-ion batteries that are recycled is very low since they are housed inside of many devices. The batteries commonly remain in our homes when the old device gets tucked away in a drawer or storage space.


Thermal runaway can be the result of design flaws (inadequate venting, poor chemistry, inadequate safety features), user damage (dropping, crushing, puncturing), improper packaging or storage, or improper charging (wrong charger, cheap chargers, overcharging). To prevent thermal runaway, proper care and storage are key. While the battery is still in use, keep them out of the heat and freezing temperatures, use the charger that came with the lithium-ion powered device, keep them dry, and avoid overcharging them. When your batteries are at the end of their life, make sure to store them at room temperature. Tape over the terminals so that they do not make contact with each other. 

The future of the environment is our responsibility and in this case, it’s the law. Batteries of all types must be recycled. Please be sure to locate an authorized battery recycler in your area to properly recycle your used batteries.