Is It Illegal to Throw Away Batteries?

 Batteries, batteries everywhere, and no where to put them! Batteries are such a common part of our everyday lives that we don't realize how quickly we can accumulate them. Batteries are used to power virtually everything portable in our lives, from TV remotes to cell phones to handheld video games. Eventually, they all run out of power.

The problem is that the chemicals that give batteries their 'juice' to make these portable devices work are considered hazardous materials under California's Universal Waste Rule. 'Universal wastes' are hazardous wastes that are not isolated to only one sector of society; they are hazardous wastes used by virtually everyone. Batteries, specifically, contain cadmium, lead, potassium hydroxide, and a host of other toxic constituents that can cause irreparable reproductive disorders as well as kidney, liver and neurological dysfunctions. Up until February 8, 2006, California residents were allowed to throw away any 'spent' battery in the trash. However, since February 9th, all batteries have been prohibited from every solid waste stream in the state due to those toxic materials.

What has been done at the state level?

In 2004, Californians Against Waste sponsored AB 1125 (Pavley), the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Act. This bill, which went into effect July 1, 2006 requires all retailers that sell or have sold rechargeable batteries to take back spent batteries for recycling at no charge to the consumer. While rechargeable batteries only constitute about 5% of all disposed batteries, they heavily contribute to the growing amount of toxins leaking from landfills everyday.

In 2006, CAW sponsored AB 2271 (Koretz), which would have established a 10-cent Consumer Refund Value (CRV) on all household batteries. This measure was modeled after the Bottle and Can recycling law in California (which allows one to redeem bottles and cans for cash when one recycles them.) It would not only have generated a lot of revenue for the state to fund battery recycling, but would also have created free and convenient recycling locations for all California residents to utilize. Unfortunately, AB 2271 stalled in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations. CAW is currently looking into reintroducing similar legislation in the future.

What can you do?

  • Many battery retailers who participate in a national Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation Program accept rechargeable batteries for recycling at no charge to the consumer. As of July 1, 2006, we can recycle rechargeable batteries at any rechargeable battery retailer. Also check out 's website for other battery recycling locations.
  • You can also do the right thing by dropping off used batteries at your local household hazardous waste facility run by your city. To find a HHW facility near you, look up your county here.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


Batteries are very toxic to the environment so if it is not, it should be illegal , but people wake up our planet is dieing, and a great way to help save it is using rechargable Duracell Batteries that last a few years so you will produce less toxic waste .

Battery CRV

Why is it just rechargeable batteries? Our family throws out more regular batteries than rechargeable ones. And, how many people will make the drive to a hazardous waste place to get rid of 10 AAA batteries. Or keep them hanging around for long periods. And, sadly enough I'm the greenest person in my family and I don't do it.

Take batteries to the library

In Oakland, all the public library branches have used battery containers.  I don't know about other California cities.