What do I do with THAT??
Working in a spring garden.
A bucket of batteries


One of the most common items we are asked about at the Howard County Recycling District is BATTERIES. There are so many different types of batteries and no consensus on how to dispose of them. What kind of batteries are they? Lithium? Alkaline? Rechargeable? Single Use? One government agency says throw them in your trash, but also advises that they be recycled in the same article.  In this edition of “What do I do with that?” we will try to give you some clear guidance on the best way to dispose of your batteries in Howard County.

Clearing up the confusion

There are many types of batteries that we use in our homes: Alkaline, Lithium, Lithium-ion, Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), Nickel-cadmium (NiCad), just to name a few.  But regardless of type, they all have one thing in common. They all contain toxic chemicals that can leak out and contaminate groundwater, damaging fragile ecosystems and entering the food chain. And many of them contain materials the United States consider “critical minerals”. According to the EPA, recycling and recovering these minerals is necessary to ensure that they will be available for future generations.

Why then, are alkaline batteries considered to be safe to put in household trash in some areas and not in others? A lot of times it is based on the availability of services and cost efficiency. Fortunately, the HCRD believes keeping all batteries out of the landfill is an important mission, and we have access to services that recycle most household batteries, including alkaline. So here are some common types of batteries and where to take them if you live in Howard County.

    Single-Use Batteries

    Alkaline and Zinc Carbon– Common everyday batteries used in small electronics such as clocks, flashlights, children’s toys, and radios. Come in several sizes including 9 volt, AA, AAA, C, D                                                            

    Button-cell or Coin-Commonly used in watches and hearing aids, single use, made of several different materials, present a swallowing hazard and fire hazard if damaged

    Lithium single-use-Commonly used in small electronics such as remote controls, video cameras, smoke detectors, and watches. Come in many sizes and are difficult to distinguish from alkaline batteries. Should say LITHIUM on packaging or battery, are single use and non-rechargeable.

    Rechargeable Batteries

    Nickel Cadmium (Ni-cd)-Commonly used in cordless power tools, cordless phones, digital cameras, two way radios, and medical equipment. May look like single-use alkaline batteries or may be include in a battery pack. Should not be separated if in a pack, and should be marked with Ni-Cad.

    Lithium-Ion (Li-ion)-Commonly found in cellphones, power tools, digital cameras, laptops, children’s toys, e-cigarettes, large appliances, and tablets. Most Li-ion batteries cannot be removed from a product and can become a fire hazard if damaged.

    Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH)– Commonly found in cell phones, remote control vehicles, digital cameras, and two way radios. Not as common anymore

    Nickel-Zinc (Ni-Zn)-Found mainly in digital cameras and wireless keyboards. Not normally removable     


    All of the above batteries can be dropped off at the HCRD for recycling. Button and coin batteries should be separated from all other batteries, and all batteries should be brought separately from other materials. DO NOT MIX WITH LIGHT BULBS OR RAZOR BLADES.

    Automotive Batteries

    Lead-acid (Pb)-Found in automobiles, boats, snowmobiles, motorcycles, golf carts,  ATVs, scooters, children’s power vehicles, basement sump-pump backups.  Batteries can be returned for the core charge when buying a new battery at an automotive store or retailer, can be taken to a metal scrap yard for a per pound rate, or can be brought to the HCRD if you are a Howard County resident. The HCRD does NOT pay money for batteries.

    Large scale Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion)-Found in plug-in and hybrid electric vehicles and energy storage systems. Most cannot safely be removed by consumers and require special handling. Batteries can be very dangerous if damaged or stored incorrectly. Consumers need to contact the retailer where their item was purchased for instructions on any replacement and disposal.


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