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Battery Recycling Guide

Picture of batteries in a bucket with an X in the top left corner. This is a picture of the wrong way to store and ship batteries. There are mixed chemistries (alkaline, lithium, and button batteries) without thier terminals taped.

Why is this bucket non-compliant?

This bucket consists of mixed battery chemistries, assorted alkalines, a laptop battery, and loose button batteries. No non-conductive procedures are being followed, which means there is a risk of short circuit and fire. While alkaline batteries are unlikely to generate a dangerous evolution of heat when stored with other alkalines, the mixed chemistries potentially can react, resulting in a short circuit and subsequent fire. All batteries must have their terminals insulated with non-conductive material.

 

 

Insulating your battery terminals

If you don’t think a short circuit or a fire can happen to you, you’re wrong. There are so many reasons a short circuit can happen from internal defects in the battery, misuse, and/or poor storage practices. These short circuits can result in fires and catastrophic damage. You must insulate your terminals with non-conductive material and follow all proper storage guidelines to minimize the risk of fire. Battery fires can happen quickly and  ignite other materials (from cellphones burning in someone’s pocket to a truck catching fire because of one laptop battery without it’s terminals properly insulated), it can and has happened.

WAYS TO INSULATE BATTERY TERMINALS

  • Taping with non-conductive tape
  • Individually packaging batteries in non-conductive material (i.e. individual plastic bags)
  • Using original packaging to separate batteries from one another and other conductive materials.
A picture of a burning cellphone battery. Improperly stored or untaped battery terminals can cause short circuits and fires. Batteries must be stored properly to avoid risk of fires when recycling.

Proper Storage

Store batteries in a cool dry place. They should not be subject to excess moisture or extreme temperatures. Also, batteries should be stored away from flammable materials to eliminate fuel sources should a short circuit occur. Batteries should be stored in a non-conductive sealable container, such as our 5 gallon plastic pail or 30 gallon plastic drum. Other objects especially metals should not be place in battery containers. When various chemistries are stored together terminals must be insulated with non-conductive material. See Proper Storage and Shipping  below for more information.

Proper Storage and Shipping

Lithium batteries come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from small button batteries, to cellphone batteries, laptop batteries, and power tool batteries, among many other uses. While they are a great power source, too much demand, misuse, and unsafe storage can make them a liability and fire risk. Degraded lithium batteries or lithiums exposed to excess heat can burst, ignite, and even explode. They must be stored correctly and treated with particular care to prevent the potential for a fire. Terminals must be insulated with non-conductive material.

NiCd or NiCad batteries are used in a variety of applications from small containers to large ventilated wet cells. They were widely used as power tool batteries and are still used for battery backups, emergency lighting, and other industrial uses. These batteries tend to suffer from problems with self-discharge and memory effect and lose effectiveness over time. Their terminals must be insulated to avoid short circuits and fires. Wet cell NiCd’s must be secured and stored upright to prevent leaks. Some large industrial NiCd batteries will require special procedures for safe shipment.

NiMH batteries are a common type of rechargeable battery available in many different sizes and applications. Common uses include retail equipment, camera batteries, communications equipment, and other high use, high drain equipment. When exposed to excess heat these batteries are prone to rupture. Terminals of NiMH batteries should be taped to prevent short circuits and fires. Batteries with connectors, plugs, and leads should be insulated as well to prevent possibility of short circuit.

Alkaline batteries (1.5v, 6v, 9v) when stored exclusively with other alkalines do not require having their terminals insulated. They are unlikely to generate dangerous amounts of heat when stored together. Once alkalines are mixed with other chemistries, alkaline batteries must also have their terminals insulated. You may want to consider designating a specific container exclusively for alkaline batteries if you utilize large quantities. Alkalines must still be stored in an appropriate container in a cool dry place.

Lead Acid batteries must be stored to prevent not only risk of short circuits but also cracks and leaking. Small lead batteries must have their terminals taped. Larger wet cells such as car batteries must be stored in accordance with our Required Packaging Procedures for Lead Acid Batteries.

This guide provides general tips for storing and shipping your batteries for recycling. It does not cover all the different types of battery configurations, nor does it cover other chemistries such as silver oxide or zinc air. Some batteries may require special procedures. If you are unsure how to safely handle specific battery types, consult a NLR customer service specialist. We’re are always available to field your questions.

Call 877.822.4733
And start recycling with NLR