Kane County Recycles: Batteries Literally Are 'Hot' Topic Right Now

Kane County Recycles: Batteries Literally Are ‘Hot’ Topic Right Now

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or recycle@countyofkane.org.

A 2018 fire at a Lakeshore Recycling Systems facility in Chicago.

I receive frequent questions about how to recycle batteries. Despite the fact that battery manufacturers claim that they are safe to throw in the landfill, it is really best not to.

DO NOT throw batteries in your recycling bin!

Please take them instead to one of the battery recycling locations near you! Before recycling, please tape over any 9-volt, lithium ion or coin shaped batteries to prevent them from creating a charge.

Batteries are electrochemical in nature, converting the substances within them into electrical energy. Some contain heavy metals like lead, mercury, nickel and cadmium as well as corrosive acids.

These materials can contaminate the environment if they are not disposed of properly. Placing large quantities of batteries in landfills can pollute the soil and groundwater.

Please note: Batteries should not ever be placed in your curbside or office recycling bins, the main reason being that they present a real threat to recycling facilities.

More and more frequently we are seeing fires in recycling facilities caused by batteries. The largest threat comes from lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium Batteries


Lithium-ion batteries that are used in portable electronics (such as cell phones, cameras, laptops, watches, e-cigarettes, car remote keys, hearing aids, electronic toys, and cordless power tools) present the worst danger because of the electrolyte, the stuff that the lithium ions moves through when it is charged and discharged.

This often contains a organic solvent that is corrosive and flammable, fine when sealed inside of the battery, not so fine if it gets out or gets hot, or both.

The risk of the battery being breached (in compactor trucks and in sorting facilities) or being exposed to heat (in summer) is quite high.

Referring back to the list of devices above that contain these kinds of batteries, I will leave you to calculate the enormous volume we use and discard as a society. Recycling facility fires have been a more common occurrence over the last several years, namely due to the increase in the presence of these batteries in the recycling material stream.

This is such a hot topic right now, that the U.S. Department of Energy plans to dedicate millions of dollars to entrepreneurs that develop safe recycling systems for lithium-ion batteries. If you are interested in more information, check out the Avoid the Spark campaign created by Call2Recycle, one of the largest battery recycling organizations in the nation.

The best way to reduce waste with batteries is to invest in a small battery charger and buy rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries make better use of resources, because you can use them multiple times before recycling, and there are many locations to recycle rechargeable batteries.

National Battery Day Video

National Battery Day is Feb. 18.

As consumers, batteries power our daily lives and allow for many conveniences. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that when the power is lost, don’t toss!

This means responsibly recycling batteries once they reach their end-of-life. Recycling batteries keeps them out of landfills and helps protect the planet. The best part – it’s easy! You can go green by:

  • Recycling old household batteries at a drop-off location near you.
  • Managing your own recycling program for both rechargeable and single-use batteries.
  • Restocking or buying new supplies.
  • Keeping safety top-of-mind by reviewing quick tips on how to safely prepare your batteries for recycling.
  • FEATURE PHOTO CAPTION: Large Blaze Burns Through Lakeshore Recycling Systems In Forest View. CREDIT: WBBM Radio