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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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Recycling Batteries

By Paul Clark, N.C. Division of Water Resources

Batteries are widely used in everything from hearing aids to motor vehicles.

They fall into two main categories: non-rechargeable and rechargeable. 

Because there are so many batteries produced and consumed around the world, it makes environmental and economic sense to recycle batteries if possible. Non-rechargeable batteries are more difficult to recycle because, although they contain material that can be recycled, it is not always cost effective to do so.

In addition, some batteries contain material that can be hazardous. For that reason, some battery processors neutralize batteries – rendering their components less hazardous. These batteries cannot be recycled, but must be disposed of in a landfill.  

Materials in rechargeable batteries are often more valuable than components in non-rechargeable batteries. Nickel, lithium and lead are a few of the components in rechargeable batteries that are recycled.       

It is generally wise to remove and separate batteries from the typical garbage stream. The separated batteries can often be economically recycled, as is often the case with rechargeable batteries. Non-rechargeable batteries that are not recycled are often neutralized, thus reducing the negative impact they could have on the environment. 

In Wake County, batteries can be taken to the Wake County Household Hazardous Collection Center and are processed by ECOFLO, Wake County’s contractor that manages household waste. ECOFLO tries to recycle as many of the batteries as they can. Batteries that cannot be recycled are properly processed, so they pose less of a potential environmental threat when placed in the landfill. To find out more about the ECOFLO program, go to http://www.ecoflo.com/.

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