MERCURY RISING

FYI: It’s totally fine to throw away most batteries

When the remote is dead and it’s time for new batteries, what do you do with the old ones? Is there a stack of dead batteries sitting in your house, because you’ve been told that batteries can’t go in the garbage? It turns out, most regular batteries are absolutely fine to throw out with all your other trash.

As Duracell’s website says: “Alkaline batteries can be safely disposed of with normal household waste.” Energizer confirms that regular batteries are fine to toss in the trash, but says rechargeable batteries should be recycled according to US federal guidelines.

According to Duracell, it’s actually been safe to throw out batteries for over 20 years. Up until the mid-90s, regular batteries contained mercury, which is highly poisonous. In 1996, the US Congress effectively outlawed the sale of mercury batteries with the aptly named Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act. Today’s batteries are made of safer metals.

There are a few caveats. The US Environmental Protection Agency says that car batteries should be recycled, as should most watch batteries. Duracell also reminds battery users that there is no effective way to recycle modern alkaline batteries. And it’s still a terrible idea to dispose of batteries in a fire—they tend to explode.

To debunk another battery-related myth: storing regular batteries in the fridge doesn’t do much to extend their lives. Free up that space in the fridge next to the mustard—just put them in a drawer.

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