It’s already feeling like spring here in Baltimore.
And some people in the office have been taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather by getting a head start on their spring cleaning.
All that cleaning comes with a lot of trash. And if you’re like me, you might have a stockpile of old, dead batteries. What do you do with them?
Most regular alkaline batteries (like we use in remotes, toys, and smoke alarms) are now safe for your typical trash disposal. That’s because in 1996, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act. It required battery makers start phasing out the use of mercury in batteries.
Today, since just about all alkaline batteries no longer contain mercury, they’ve been cleared for regular trash disposal in all but one state (California still outlaws it).
The act also states that nickel cadmium and small sealed lead-acid batteries need proper, special disposal. If not, batteries containing these poisonous metals make their way to landfills. Once there, they can leak the heavy metals into the ground (which gets into the groundwater and poisons folks). Or worse, the trash site may incinerate garbage. That means all those metals release into the air and cause serious health problems when inhaled.
However, that still leaves all kinds of rechargeable batteries, car batteries, and hearing aids without clear guidance – there are a lot of exceptions, and the rules can vary depending on where you live. In some states, throwing out the wrong batteries brings heavy penalties. In Syracuse, New York, you could face a fine of $50 for a single battery.
But there’s an even better way. Recycle those batteries. You can even get paid for it…
I’m all for recycling… I always recycle glass, paper, plastic, batteries… you name it. I even have a “single stream” recycling bin in my office that I keep filling.
For alkaline batteries, you can recycle them at a number of locations. Earth911 has a searchable database here.
Rechargeable batteries, which have grown in popularity over the past decade, can’t go into your trash. That’s because they still contain nickel cadmium or lithium… both examples of poisonous metals. Luckily, these also have recycling centers. For instance, all Best Buy stores across the U.S. and in Puerto Rico accept rechargeable batteries for recycling.
Electronic batteries, like ones from your cell phone or laptop, can’t be thrown away in the trash. They also need to be recycled. Best Buy stores will take them, as will Staples and Apple stores. Even the U.S. Postal Service is getting into recycling, with many branches now offering recycling programs. (Read more here.)
With some electronics, like phones and watches, you can even earn money back. We tested several trade-in sites in our February 2016 Retirement Millionaire issue and found we could receive about $100 for our phone models on Amazon’s trade-in site (which pays in Amazon credit) compared with anywhere from $40-$80 on sites like Gazelle and NextWorth (two sites that pay cash).
We also found that we could often get more back at the phone carrier’s store… This works best if you’re selling a carrier’s phone back to that same carrier. For example, T-Mobile quoted us $100 for a T-Mobile iPhone 5, but that dropped to $75 for an AT&T version of the same phone.
So check your phone’s carrier first for its trade-in offer. If you feel its offer is too low, try Amazon’s trade-in site to get the most money out of your old phone. And keep in mind that not all places will take all phone models.
Hearing aid batteries are tricky. Some contain mercury and some don’t… it depends on the type of hearing aid you have. Your battery should say on it “contains mercury.”
But those small batteries can be tough to read… Be safe and look for a center that accepts single-use batteries like these for recycling. Typically the places we already mentioned, Best Buy and Staples, will accept these as well.
Car batteries, so-called “lead acid” batteries, should never make it to the local landfill. You should recycle these… Check with your local auto parts store to see if they collect old batteries. Popular places around here include Advance Auto Parts. They even pay a “battery bounty” – you’ll get a $20 gift card if you bring in a battery for your car, light truck, golf cart, or boat. Click here for details of the program.
Also, if you use AAA to replace your battery, they will take and recycle the old one for you as part of the service.
So if you have a big pile of old batteries, try one of the stores we mentioned. You can also find great resources below…
- Type in an item to recycle and your zip code to find local programs through RecycleNation.
- Earth911 has a searchable database as well as a call center. Find it here or call their number: 1-800-CLEANUP.
- Try an all-battery recycling program through Call2Recycle. Call their drop-off locator service here: 1-877-2-RECYCLE or find it online here.
Don’t toss those batteries. Put them to good use by recycling them. You’ll feel better about getting rid of your trash and doing some good for the environment… and you might even get paid for it.
Let us know if you’ve found other ways of getting paid to recycle – e-mail us at [email protected] with your best tips.
What We’re Reading…
- More on the dangers of groundwater contamination.
- Something different: Are trees the new windmills?
Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
February 23, 2017