It’s The Law: Battery Recycling Regulations You Should Know

Christine LellisRecycling Batteries

Look around you: batteries are everywhere! From laptops to cell phones to cars, batteries are hugely useful in our work and daily lives — but they also represent a huge responsibility. 

When thrown in the trash, batteries can release harmful materials like mercury, lead, and cadmium into the environment. 

If you’re in charge of recycling your company’s batteries, then it’s important to understand the recycling laws in all the regions where you do business and ensure your batteries are disposed of properly. 

Although regulations are a lot more streamlined than they were a few decades ago, they can still be confusing. Working with a reputable recycler like Battery Recyclers of America is the easiest way to ensure that you’re compliant with all local, state, and federal regulations. 

To help you understand your recycling obligations, this guide will explain some of the most common battery recycling regulations at a high level and in plain English. 

The Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act (‘the Battery Act’)

The Battery Act is a federal law intended to make it easier to collect and recycle rechargeable batteries.

Before the Battery Act, recycling rechargeable batteries was difficult. Different states had their own labeling and waste management requirements. A recycling program stretching across several states had to navigate different (and often contradictory) requirements. 

At the same time, rechargeable batteries accounted for 75% of the cadmium and 65% of the lead found in municipal solid waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Clearly, there was a pressing need for efficient and cost-effective recycling programs for rechargeable batteries. 

Thus, the Battery Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on May 13, 1996. The new law phased out the use of mercury in batteries, established uniform labeling standards for rechargeable batteries, and made the Universal Waste Rule for batteries effective in all 50 states, making a nationwide recycling program possible. 

The Universal Waste Rule

As we mentioned above, the Battery Act made the Universal Waste Rule for Batteries effective in all 50 states. The U.S. EPA’s Universal Waste Rule is designed to ease the regulatory burden on businesses and make it easier to comply with hazardous waste disposal rules. 

This rule governs the collection, storage, transportation, and disposal of certain hazardous materials like pesticides, lamps, mercury-containing equipment, and batteries. Under the Universal Waste Rule, Ni-Cd and Pb batteries may not be thrown away and must be recycled instead.

State and local regulations

Some states also have their own battery recycling regulations over and above federal regulations. For example, California requires consumers to recycle all single-use batteries. In other states, you can safely dispose of single use household batteries like AA, AAA, C, and D. Failure to comply with federal law or your state laws can result in hefty fines. Call2Recycle has a map of recycling laws by state here

Make sure your batteries are recycled safely & legally

At Battery Recyclers of America, our team of experts ensures that your batteries are handled, transported, and recycled in accordance with all applicable regulations. Once your materials are recycled, we provide you with a recycling certificate to show your compliance. 

When you recycle your batteries with us, you can rest assured that your batteries have been recycled properly. Email our team or give us a call at (800-508-6670) to speak with one of our battery recycling experts today for more information!