Recycling Tips: What Should I Be Doing With Alkaline Batteries?

Recycling Tips: What Should I Be Doing With Alkaline Batteries?

  • Editor’s Note: This recycling-tips article was written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Clair Ryan. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Clair at 630-208-3841 or recycle@countyofkane.org.

I get a lot of questions about recycling alkaline batteries – the type of battery that comes in the familiar sizes of AAA, AA, C and D. These are the most common type of household battery and people tend to accumulate lots of them.

However, recycling opportunities for these are becoming few and far between.

Where To Dispose of Alkaline Batteries

This type of battery is not accepted at the county’s recycling centers or at the Naperville household hazardous waste drop off.

However, at the time of writing, Elgin Township, the city of Batavia and the city of Geneva accept alkaline batteries from residents.

Batteries Plus is the only retailer known to accept alkaline batteries and charges a cost per pound.

Why Did Alkaline Battery Recycling Programs Go Away?

Many citizens remember alkaline battery recycling programs and wonder why they went away. Well, there are three reasons:

  • Engineers examine aluminum recovered from battery cathodes at a battery recycling facility (Photo courtesy of American Manganese)

    Alkaline batteries are not nearly as toxic as they used to be. They used to contain mercury, a notoriously toxic heavy metal, and now they don’t. So while landfilling alkaline batteries still isn’t ideal, it is not nearly as dangerous as in decades past.

  • Consumers are using large quantities of alkaline batteries. Most estimates are that each American disposes of eight batteries a year on average. For Kane County, that equates to 4.25 million batteries per year. If you set all those batteries end-to-end, they would stretch all the way from Government Center in Geneva to Milwaukee!
  • Alkaline batteries are expensive to recycle, and the cost of transport and recycling is higher than the value of the material recovered.

Many municipalities and retailers that used to run take-back programs have decided that the math on recycling alkaline batteries just doesn’t add up and have either closed their programs or limited them to rechargeable battery types only.

What Is The Alternative to Alkaline Batteries?

Each rechargeable battery can replace up to 15 single-use alkaline batteries (Stock photo via Canva)

So, what’s a conscientious citizen to do? Trust me, I want to know as much as anybody, because half of my son’s toys run on batteries.

My recommendation would be to choose rechargeable batteries whenever possible. Most of the major battery manufacturers make them, at least in AAA and AA sizes.

They aren’t quite as convenient as alkalines – you do have to recharge them for several hours between uses using a charging plate that plugs into a wall outlet.

However, one rechargeable battery can be used in place of approximately 15 alkaline batteries over the course of its life. The best part is that although the rechargeable batteries cost more when you buy them, they reach cost-equivalence with alkalines at about six uses, so over time, they are significantly cheaper.

The only place you would not want to use a rechargeable battery is in a device that is constantly drawing down small amounts of power and whose function is critical. For example, it is best to stick to alkalines with battery powered smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Rechargeable batteries are made of Nickel metal-hydride (NiMH), the same materials as older hybrid-electric car batteries. They do eventually wear out, but the good news is that there are lots of recycling options for NiMH batteries.

Any municipal battery program will take spent rechargeables, but so will most major hardware stores and consumer electronics chains. Check out our battery recycling page for an updated list by battery type.

ALL DRY BATTERY TYPES (inc. alkaline)

Batavia City Hall

  • (Batavia Residents Only​)
  • 100 N Island Ave, Batavia, 630-879-1424​
  • M-F 8am-3pm

Batavia Public Works

  • (Batavia Residents Only​)
  • 200 N. Raddant Rd., Batavia, ​630-454-2000​
  • M-F 8am-3pm

Elgin Township Highway Garage

  • (Kane County Residents only, NO Businesses!)
  • 725 S. McLean Blvd.
  • Elgin, 847-741-4637

Elgin Fire Station

  • (Kane County Residents only, NO Businesses!)
  • 650 Big Timber Road
  • Elgin, (1/4 mile West of Route 31), 847-741-4637​

Elgin Fire District Annex

  • (Kane County Residents only, NO Businesses!)
  • 8N709 Stevens Rd.
  • Elgin, (Hopps and Stevens Roads), 847-741-4637

​Geneva Public Works

  • (Geneva Residents Only)
  • Public Works building – front desk
  • 1800 South Street, Geneva, 630-232-1501
  • M-F 9​:30am-3:30pm ​
  • or the HHW collection program.

Pingree Grove Fire Station

  • 39W160 Plank Rd.
  • Elgin, ​847-741-4637

​Batteries Plus

  • Geneva: 1492 S. Randall Rd. / 630-313-5700​
  • Elgin: 352 S. Randall​ Rd. / 847-289-8990
    • Hours: M-F 8a-8p; Sat 9a-7p; Sun 10a-5p
    • Fees may apply – $0.25 to $1 per pound – to recycle at Batteries Plus.​
    • Please call to confirm that they are accepting batteries or bulbs at any given time, as the protocols are inconsistent.