Rechargeable Battery Facts
- Rechargeable batteries contain toxic heavy metals that include lead, nickel, cadmium, and mercury and are harmful to the environment and pose human health hazards.
- Rechargeable batteries should be recycled or disposed of properly.
- The Rechargeable Battery Reference Guide shows typical equipment and electronic devices that use rechargeable batteries.
- The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation* (RBRC) offers Call2Recycle for free disposal of cell phones and rechargeable batteries and cell phones for businesses and individuals. Businesses can support battery recycling by sponsoring* a dropoff box for free.
- More recycling information can be found on the Community Resources and Links page.
Types of Rechargeable Batteries and their Dangers
- Nickel-Cadmium "NiCad"
- NiCad batteries are the most hazardous because they contain cadmium. Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal. NiCad batteries contain 6%-18% cadmium. If a NiCad battery is disposed in the regular trash and incinerated, human exposure can result from inhalation. Cadmium poisoning can cause metal fume fever, pneumonitis, pulmonary edema, and death. If a NiCad battery is disposed in the regular trash and landfilled, its contents can contaminate soil and groundwater. For more information, visit the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration information page.*
- Nickel-Metal Hydride "NiMH"
- While less hazardous than NiCad batteries, NiMH batteries contain other metal alloys containing nickel, which is a potentially carcinogenic substance.
- Lithium Ion "Li-Ion"
- Lithium Ion batteries, sometimes called "Li-Ion," are widely used because of their long life. However, when exposed to high temperatures or contaminated with other metals, they can rupture, ignite, or explode, posing serious risk to handlers and staff. In the event of fire, the smoke is particularly damaging to lungs.
- Lead-Acid batteries are the oldest type of rechargeable batteries. Lead is a highly poisonous heavy metal. If Lead-Acid batteries are improperly disposed or stored, the gas-venting valves can fail, causing explosion or fire. If this event ruptures the battery casing, acid and shrapnel can be sprayed around the area. One explosion like this can ignite other cells within the battery or other nearby batteries. For more information, see the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) 2009 Battery Safety Compliance Advisory.*
Management and Disposal of used rechargeable batteries
Start by developing a rechargeable battery management strategy
- Refer to the Training Powerpoint and Manual for specific requirements on storage and handling.
- The video below is a short training for handling universal waste batteries