Many people think batteries can go in household or commercial kerbside bins but the hazardous chemicals within a battery can create a fire if the battery gets damaged, such as when compacted in a garbage truck.
Batteries don’t belong in waste or recycling bins
Give batteries a safe goodbye. Take them to a collection site.
Batteries contain a range of metals including lead, mercury and lithium which can be hazardous to the environment when disposed of incorrectly.
They should never be thrown into household bins because they contain chemicals that contaminate our waste streams, pollute the environment and can cause catastrophic fires.
For commercial quantities of batteries, contact a hazardous waste service provider to dispose of them lawfully and safely.
What to do with old batteries
When disposed of correctly, 95 per cent of battery components can be recycled into new products. Here’s what you can recycle and where.
Small household batteries
The EPA has partnered with B-cycle, the national product stewardship scheme for batteries, to establish B-cycle drop off points at all Community Recycling Centres and Household Chemical CleanOut events. With B-cycle drop off points also available at major retail outlets, you can now drop off small household batteries at over 1,000 B-cycle locations across NSW for recycling. Accepted batteries include AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, 6V, watch and button batteries.
Tape both ends of the battery terminal and drop them off at:
- Community Recycling Centres
- Household Chemical CleanOut events
- Officeworks, Woolworths, Aldi, IGA and Bunnings
- The B-cycle search tool provides a comprehensive list of all drop off points in your area.
Batteries over 5 kilograms
Some larger batteries, for example, batteries from electric bikes and scooters, and car batteries, can be dropped off at a Community Recycling Centre or Household Chemical CleanOut event. Embedded batteries, solar panels and large energy storage batteries are not accepted.
Lithium batteries are often contained in phones, tablets, power banks, computers, toys, appliances and tools, as well as mobility equipment such as electric bikes and scooters.
Lithium-ion batteries can be cylindrical, flat, rectangular, pouch, and device specific. If the battery is rechargeable and has “Li” or “Lithium” printed on it, you can safely assume that it is a lithium-ion battery.
When lithium-ion batteries are damaged they can produce violent bursting of battery cells, hissing and release of toxic, flammable and explosive gases, and an intense, self-sustaining fire that can be difficult to extinguish.
If you can safely remove the lithium battery from the product by hand, tape the terminals using a non-conductive tape like clear sticky tape.
If the battery cannot be easily removed by hand or is embedded into a product, please do not attempt to remove it. Instead, leave it as is and recycle through your local e-waste collection services.
E-cigarettes and vapes
E-cigarettes and disposable vapes are also potentially very dangerous in general waste as they contain a heating element as well as a lithium battery, which can readily ignite.
While vapes are more complex to recycle, there are some councils that will accept disposable vapes as part of their e-waste drops-offs.
Vapes are an emerging waste but we’re working with the Commonwealth and will look at other disposal options for NSW to make it easier.
What to do if a battery catches fire
If the device or battery starts to smoke or emit flames:
- evacuate the area and close doors if safe to do so to slow the spread of fire ensuring no one goes back inside the building for any reason. The vented battery gases, vapour and smoke are highly toxic and flammable and must not be inhaled.
- call Triple Zero (000) and wait in a safe location for firefighters to arrive.
- If anyone has been exposed to spilled electrolyte, flying debris, smoke or vapours, or flames, seek urgent medical assistance. Burns should be immediately treated with cool running water for 20 minutes. Burns larger than a 20-cent piece require emergency care. Treat with cool running water immediately, call Triple Zero (000), and follow the advice of the operator.