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Most batteries designate as dangerous waste, but if properly managed, businesses can recycle batteries under the following:

Batteries not managed under one of the above must be designated and managed according to the Dangerous Waste Regulations.

Proper storage, recycling, and disposal of batteries is highly important. Ensure you take batteries to a recycling facility equipped for battery recycling. Never put them in the trash. Batteries thrown in the trash or stored unsafely can:

  • Start a fire (such as lithium-ion batteries).
  • Leak chemicals (mercury, lead, cadmium, lithium, or sulfuric acid).

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Not a business?

If you are a household or individual, do not put batteries in curbside recycling bins or trash. Find a household hazardous waste site or recycling drop-off location through Call2Recycle.

Dangerous waste batteries

All dangerous waste batteries can be managed as universal waste (there are no specified size or battery chemistry limitations):

  • Alkaline and alkaline-manganese dioxide.
  • Lead-acid.
  • Lithium-ion (such as electric vehicle (EV) batteries).
  • Lithium-metal.
  • Mercury (mercuric oxide, mercury cell, button cell, Ruben-Mallory).
  • Nickel-cadmium.
  • Silver oxide (often small, button type batteries).
  • Zinc (zinc-carbon, -ion, -air, nickel zinc).
  • All other types of batteries that are otherwise dangerous waste.

Manage batteries as universal waste

To manage dangerous waste batteries following the universal waste standards:

Print or make your own universal waste label.

  • Store batteries in a container compatible with battery waste. Keep closed if the batteries show evidence of leaks, spills, or damage that could cause the battery to leak.
  • Label containers as: "Universal Waste—Battery(ies)" or "Waste Battery(ies)" or "Used Battery(ies)."
  • Track accumulation time by marking containers or through shipment records. Universal waste has a one-year time limit for on-site accumulation.
  • Determine your handler category. Large quantity universal waste handlers are subject to additional rules.
  • Recycle. Universal waste handlers are prohibited from disposing of universal waste.

Manage batteries under the lead-acid battery exclusion

If you reclaim or regenerate spent lead-acid batteries, you can manage them under the lead-acid battery waste exclusion (WAC 173-303-520). 

The exclusion requires that you:

  • Recycle your lead-acid batteries.
  • Store them properly on-site.
  • Meet all other requirements noted in the exclusion.

Battery storage tips

Follow these best management practices to improve workplace safety. These are not requirements, but recommended:

  • Segregate batteries by type. Some recyclers will not accept containers of mixed waste batteries.
  • Don’t mix used batteries with new batteries. This may result in more waste generation.
  • Don’t attempt to recharge a battery unless it’s marked as rechargeable. This could cause damage or rupturing.

Lithium-based battery storage

  • Cover the terminals of waste lithium batteries or place them in separate plastic bags to reduce the potential for fires.
  • Store lithium batteries in a dry environment, away from heat sources and direct sunlight.

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Lithium-ion battery safety and management

Due to their compact and energy dense design, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries can cause fires or explosions if defective or damaged. Businesses may recycle lithium-ion batteries as universal waste, but proper storage and disposal is critical:

  • Never throw lithium-ion batteries in the trash or curbside recycling. They are likely to be crushed by heavy equipment or other materials which can cause a fire.
  • Store lithium-ion batteries following the guidance above for lithium-based batteries.
  • Dispose of lithium-ion batteries at a recycling facility equipped for lithium-ion battery recycling.
  • If not managed as universal waste, used lithium-ion batteries designate as ignitable (D001) and reactive (D003) dangerous waste.

Read our Memo on Lithium-Ion Battery Management for more information and contact your local Fire Code Official to learn about fire code requirements for lithium-ion batteries.

Frequently asked questions