Why you shouldn’t place rechargeable batteries in recycling bins or trash cans

Firefighters battle trash blaze in Somerset County.
Firefighters battle a fire caused by lithium batteries that were thrown in the trash in Somerset County. Photo courtesy of Somerset County.

Batteries should not be placed in recycling bins or trash cans because they can be a fire risk, and they also contain chemicals that pollute the environment.

Officials in Somerset County report that lithium batteries thrown in trash bins have repeatedly caused fires in county recycling vehicles and in storage areas.

Batteries can contain metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, nickel, and silver that can be harmful to the environment and human health if not properly managed. Batteries can also be a fire risk if they are over-charged, short-circuited, submerged in water, or damaged.

Instead of throwing batteries in the trash, drop your used lithium batteries and rechargeable batteries off at hazardous waste drop-off events in your county or municipality.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends the following to prevent fires:

  • Tape battery terminals with non-conductive tape
  • Place each battery in its own plastic bag
  • Store lithium-ion batteries at room temperature

Somerset County has scheduled two special days where county residents can drop off batteries and other hazardous waste in Hillsborough.

June 15: South County Public Works Garage, 410 Roycefield Road, Hillsborough 08844

October 19: South County Public Works Garage, 410 Roycefield Road, Hillsborough 08844

Mercer County has scheduled three special hazardous waste and e-waste recycling days for 2024. March 30, June 8 and Sept. 21, Mercer County residents can bring batteries and other hazardous items to the Dempster Fire Training School at 350 Lawrence Station Road in Lawrence between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Acceptable chemicals and hazardous waste items include aerosol cans, used motor oil, propane gasoline tanks, pesticides, herbicides, car batteries, paint thinner, oil-based paint, stains and varnishes, antifreeze, driveway sealer, gasoline, insect repellents, mercury, fluorescent bulbs, and CFL bulbs.

Acceptable electronics include computers, printers, copiers, fax machines, microwaves, stereos, and televisions.

One Comment

  1. Most Home Depot, Lowe’s and Staples locations have bins for recycling Rechargeable Batteries. I use the website https://www.call2recycle.org/locator/ to look up the closest location. It tells you what they accept at each location.
    As a side note – these bins aren’t for damaged, defective, or recalled batteries which need special handling.

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