Recycling batteries

Household (Dry Cell)

Dry cell batteries are batteries used in many household items – including power tools, watches, video cameras, calculators, hand-held vacuum cleaners, flashlights, toys and hearing aids. They include alkaline, alkaline rechargeable, lead acid sealed, lithium, metal hydride, mercuric oxide, nickel-cadmium, silver oxide and zinc-air batteries. They include AAA, AA, C, D, 9v, button, coin and other sizes.

Environmental impacts

The materials in dry cell batteries – mercury, lithium, silver cadmium, lead and acids – all have the potential to be hazardous wastes. If batteries are burned or landfilled, the heavy metals in them can be released into the environment.

Metals such as silver, cadmium, nickel and lead that may be hazardous if released into the environment are also valuable metals that can be recovered for reuse.

Legal requirements

Wisconsin has no legal requirements for disposing of household dry-cell batteries. Household waste is not regulated as a hazardous waste identified in ch. NR 661, Wis. Adm. Code [exit DNR]. However, if a household waste is managed separately by a non-household member, this exemption no longer applies.

Homeowners should check with their local recycling program to see if there are additional restrictions.

Preferred handling options: reduce and recycle!

Reduce waste at the source by buying rechargeable batteries whenever possible. When your rechargeable batteries come to the end of their lifespan, they can also be recycled. Alkaline batteries may be put in the trash, but some battery retailers or other recycling locations may accept alkaline batteries for a small fee.

To find a recycler in your area for rechargeable or other batteries:

  • visit Call2Recycle [exit DNR] or call toll-free 1-877-2-RECYCLE; many national retailers are participating in a non-profit program to recycle rechargeable batteries and have collection boxes in their stores;
  • contact your local recycling program to see if they provide for collection; many county websites [exit DNR] may also contain information on recycling; or
  • find a licensed battery handler [PDF] in your county.


Motor Vehicle (Lead Acid)

Lead acid batteries are found in cars, trucks, motorcycles and some lawn and garden vehicles.

Environmental impacts

If stored improperly, lead acid batteries may leak or spill and cause lead and/or acid contamination of the soil and groundwater. Acid from leaking batteries can burn the eyes and skin. If recycled properly, however, the lead can be recovered for reuse.

Legal requirements

Under chapter 287.07(1m), Wis. Stats., it is illegal to burn or dispose of lead acid batteries in Wisconsin.

Preferred handling options: recycle!

According to Wisconsin recycling law, retailers and commercial installers of motor vehicle batteries must accept used lead acid vehicle batteries for recycling from individuals during normal business hours (s. 287.18, Wis. Stats.). This service is free to customers who purchase a new battery when they bring in a used one. Customers may be charged a fee of up to $3 if they bring in a used battery without purchasing a new one. Retailers may charge a deposit of up to $5 when a customer purchases a new battery without turning in a used one. The deposit is refunded when the customer returns to the same retailer with a used battery and proof that the deposit was paid.

The state recycling law requires battery retailers to post a sign stating "Recycle Vehicle Batteries Here." The sign must be 8 1/2 x 11 inches and be visible to customers.

Safe handling

When handling a lead acid battery, use a non-reactive, impermeable surface to help protect against exposure and ensure that acid and lead will not leak into soil or groundwater. Sealed five-gallon plastic pails are adequate for storing a leaking or cracked battery. Use gloves and eye protection when handling old batteries, and always wash hands immediately after handling old batteries.

Last revised: Thursday February 06 2014