Experts explain how to properly recycle various types of batteries

Posted at 12:11 PM, Aug 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-27 18:20:18-04

ELYRIA, Ohio — When a battery in your car, cell phone, or remote control dies, do you know how to get rid of it safely? Some you can toss right in the trash, but many others have to be taken to a waste collection facility to be recycled properly.

"About 16,000 to 17,000 cars a year come through the facility three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, Saturday,” said James Skora, the Collection Center Coordinator for the Lorain County Solid Waste District.

The people in those cars bring almost every kind of recyclable waste you can imagine.

The Lorain County Solid Waste District's collection center has received nearly one million pounds of material this year alone. They take your everyday recyclables, like cardboard and paper, but also hazardous waste like antifreeze, cleaning chemicals, and batteries.

"We take lead acid batteries which normally people would associate that with auto batteries, tractor batteries, car batteries, mowers, things of that nature — that's a lead acid battery. We also take common household batteries, little rechargeable, A, AA, C, D batteries,” Skora said.

The biggest concern for collection center staff are those batteries made out of more hazardous materials being disposed of incorrectly, like those lead acid batteries or lithium ion ones found in cell phones or other portable electronics.

"If a car battery were to be thrown into the trash, it could leak. There's acid in that, a particular example lead acid battery, there's acid there. Batteries can, because of the electrolysis, produce hydrogen gas and that is a highly flammable gas,” Skora said.

After people drop off their unwanted batteries, they're separated by type and sorted into bins. Once there's a good amount of each, they're either shipped out to the scrap yard to be properly recycled, or if they’re household alkaline batteries, they’re simply tossed away.

"The heavy metals — the nickel, the cadmium, lithium — is highly recyclable material but they have to go to specialized processors,” Skora said.

And the center isn't just getting the dangerous batteries out of the trash, sometimes it's able to cash in. Each lead acid battery can net the county between $2 and $5 when they're handed over to a scrap yard.

"When it comes to the return and exchange that helps us to offset our overhead," said Sharon Sweda, a Lorain County Commissioner. "Because you can see that we're staffing the facility, we have overhead that we're facing to handle the equipment for everybody, so that exchange just helps us to offset the costs and make it more doable as a county service because we don't charge residents."