Recycling Know No’s: Avoid the Spark

January 30, 2023

Submitted by Liz Antanavica, Trash & Recycling Administrator

Batteries power our lives. It would be difficult to find a Bedford home without at least one battery-powered device. From smoke detectors to remote controls, kids’ toys to rechargeable toothbrushes, Roomba vacuums, and the car in the driveway – all use one type of battery or another. 

Here is the layout of the Compost & Recycling Center at 108 Carlisle Rd. Courtesy photo

Saturday, Feb. 18 is National Battery Day. On this day, we celebrate the convenience that batteries bring to our lives and remember the contributions of Italian scientist Alessandro Volta, who is credited with inventing the modern battery in the year 1800. The word “volt” pays homage to his work. 

While batteries provide cordless power to our everyday lives, they can also be incredibly problematic at the point of disposal. Improperly disposed of lithium batteries, especially, are responsible for a number of high-profile fires at material recovery facilities and disposal sites. In June of 2022, a lithium battery caused a fire on the top floor of the Lee, NH Transfer Station. MassRecycle, the statewide organization dedicated to improving recycling by sharing real-world solutions to today’s problems, recently developed a podcast episode, “Lithium Batteries: Blowing Up!” You can listen to the episode here.

It is important that all batteries be properly disposed of to prevent these kinds of incidents. Batteries (or battery-containing devices) should never be placed in curbside recycling carts and only single-use alkaline batteries are acceptable in the trash. Residents should instead bring batteries to the Compost & Recycling Center, 108 Carlisle Rd. or to Household Hazardous Waste Day events. 

Common Battery Questions-

  • How can I tell if my child’s toy contains an embedded battery? If the toy lights up, talks or moves on its own without being plugged in, or recharges, then it contains a battery. Toys can sometimes contain notoriously difficult to remove batteries. A Magic Mixies cauldron toy, for example, contains a deeply embedded lithium-polymer battery. These batteries must be removed before disposing of the toy. Never put toys with embedded batteries in the trash without first removing the battery. Once removed, properly recycle the battery. 
  • How can I tell what type of battery I have? Batteries manufactured in the U.S. must have the battery chemistry stamped on the label, by law. Look for this information on the side of the label. It may be very small. If you are not sure, please bring the battery to the  Compost Site and staff will be happy to help you. 
Inside the batteries and bulbs drop-off area at Compost & Recycling Center. Courtesy photo

Acceptable batteries for drop off at the Compost & Recycling Center:

  • All rechargeable batteries (Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, lithium-ion, lithium-polymer; found in cordless power tools, toys, cell phones, laptops) 
  •  Small sealed lead-acid batteries (or SSLA; found in backup power supplies, children’s ride on toys, alarm systems)
  • Single use Lithium Primary (small, flat, round batteries in key fobs and watches; also now sold as A, AA or AAA Lithium) 
  • Button batteries (small, squat, and round, found in hearing aids and watches) 
  • Devices with embedded batteries (such as an electric toothbrush) Note: the town cannot accept vape pens. 

Alkaline batteries are non-hazardous and can be disposed of in the trash. 

Prior to dropping off batteries, tape the terminals with clear packing tape to prevent electrical discharge. Batteries can then be placed into the collection containers inside the Universal Waste Shed at the Recycling Center. 

Damaged or leaking batteries should be treated as hazardous waste and brought directly to a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Day event. This includes swollen, bent, or cracked batteries. Dates for 2023 HHW events will be posted to the Town’s website. Do not leave leaking, crushed, or damaged batteries in the Universal Waste Shed. 

Have additional battery recycling questions? Contact Liz Antanavica, Trash & Recycling Administrator, 781-275-7605, ext. 4261. 

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