Recycling's Dirty Dozen — No. 4: What You SHOULD Do With 3 Billion Dead Batteries

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen — No. 4: What You SHOULD Do With 3 Billion Dead Batteries

  • Editor’s Note: This article is written by Waste Management of Illinois Inc. Director of Public Affairs Lisa Disbrow along with Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland, both of whom are members of the Illinois Task Force for Recycling Contamination Solutions. The article is part of a year-long a series on the “Dirty Dozen” of recycling — the 12 items that should NOT go in your recycling cart. Got local questions or concerns? Contact Jarland at at 630-208-3841 or

Every October, we are reminded to replace the batteries in our homes’ smoke alarms. Our clocks, bike lights, cameras and appliances need new batteries all the time.

Which leads to the focus of today’s Dirty Dozen article: Batteries cannot be put in the curbside recycling, so what should you do with dead batteries?

There are many types of batteries used to power all our gadgets, from your average single-use alkaline batteries to lithium ion batteries to rechargeable batteries.

It is estimated that more than 3 billion batteries were thrown away according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year.

“At recycling facilities, we receive all types of batteries including lead-acid (car) batteries that contaminate the recyclables,” said Tom Vujovic, the director of recycling for Waste Management of Illinois. “Batteries have a recycling symbol. However, they should not be placed in your recycling cart.”

As a company, Waste Management recycling facilities receive 28,000 pounds of batteries each month.

“Batteries are a known source of fires, and it is important these materials are not tossed into your single-stream recycling collection,” Vujovic said.

It’s very important not to place these batteries in the curbside recycling carts as recycling facilities and truck fires have been caused from batteries becoming damaged by the sorting or heavy equipment crushing them.

To help prevent battery fires and enhance worker safety, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law HB 2296, which prohibits residents and businesses from placing rechargeable or lead acid batteries into recycling carts beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

What follows is a summary of what you should do with dead batteries in various forms, as well as alternatives for single-use batteries.

Single-Use Batteries

Household alkaline batteries (A, AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, 12V, coin, and button) contain high levels of heavy metals, including cadmium, lead and mercury, which can contaminate the environment.

Single-use alkaline batteries may legally be disposed of in the trash, though that is not ideal.

Experts recommend you recycle them, if possible. There are several locations in the community where you can drop them off for proper recycling; see the list below for places in or near Kane County.

Rechargeable Batteries

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.​

Check your local hardware stores, and Batteries Plus stores.

Lithium Batteries

Lithium ion batteries are a significant problem in the recycling world because they may spark a fire if handled incorrectly.

They look very similar to alkaline, so please carefully identify the type of battery before deciding how to recycle it.

Many retailers including Lowes, Home Depot, & Best Buy will accept lithium ion batteries for recycling. Please check with the local drop off locations below to see if they accept lithium ion batteries.

Lead-acid Batteries

Larger lead-acid batteries from autos, boats, sump pumps, and the like may be taken to any store that sells these batteries. The store will accept them for free or a small charge.

These batteries are totally recycled including the lead plates, battery acid, and plastic case.

Safety First — Use Tape!

Tape over the tops of all batteries before recycling to prevent the contact points from touching each other or other metallic items.

Place the old batteries in a clear container, like a resealable plastic bag.

Kane County Battery Recycling Options


  • For Aurora residents only.
  • Click here ​for more information.​
  • 630-256-3080​

Batavia Public Works

Elgin Township Highway Garage

  • For Kane County residents only, NO businesses!
  • 725 S. McLean Boulevard, Elgin, IL 60123
  • 847-741-4637

Elgin Fire Station

  • For Kane County residents only, NO businesses!
  • 650 Big Timber Road, Elgin, IL 60123 (a quarter-mile west of IL Route 31)
  • 847-741-4637​

Elgin Fire District Annex

  • For Kane County residents only, NO businesses!
  • 8N709 Stevens Road, Elgin, IL 60124 (corner of Hopps and Stevens roads)
  • 847-741-4637

Geneva Public Works

  • For Geneva residents only
  • Public Works building front desk, 1800 South St., Geneva
  • 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Frida
  • Visit the HHW collection program

Naperville HHW Facility

  • 156 Fort Hill Drive, Naperville, IL 60540
  • Public Works Office: 630-420-6095
  • Drop Off: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday (except holidays)​

Pingree Grove Fire Station

  • 39W160 Plank Road, Elgin, IL 60124​
  • 847-741-4637

​St. Charles Public Works

  • For St. Charles residents only
  • 1405 S. 7th Ave., St. Charles
  • 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday

​Batteries Plus

  • Geneva: 1492 S. Randall Road / 630-402-6495
  • Elgin: 352 S. Randall​ Road / 847-289-8990
  • Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

​Fees may apply: $0.25 to $1 per pound to recycle at Batteries Plus.​

Last Word

Always call first to verify which batteries the location will accept for recycling.

Read The ‘Dirty Dozen’ Series!