Lithium-ion Battery (LIB) Disposal
Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are powerful, relatively inexpensive, and lightweight energy sources that power a wide array of electronics and portable tools. LIBs allow our devices to hold a charge for a longer period of time in comparison to previous battery options; however, there are consequences to this technology that unfortunately effect solid waste recycling and disposal. The number of LIBs that will be dumped in our landfills and on transfer station floors will increase exponentially in future years.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE)'s current goal is to not only educate solid waste workers on LIB handling and disposal, but also educate the public on the hazards of incorrectly disposing LIBs. Many citizens are unaware of the disposal options that are available to increase safety at solid waste facilities and allow for LIB recycling.
Find a Recycling & Disposal Facility
Contact your local Household Hazardous Waste Facility (PDF) for information on recycling and safe disposal.
What can be Disposed & Recycled?
- wireless headphones
- cell phones
- handheld gaming devices
- hearing aids
- e-cigarettes / vape pens
- portable tools
- cameras and other devices
- Lithium-ion battery – rechargeable and contain highly flammable electrolytes that can overheat; examples include cell phones, laptops, power tools, and cameras
- Lithium primary battery – metal lithium and non-rechargeable; react violently with water; examples include pacemakers, watches, and car remotes
- Alkaline – AA, AAA, D, C, 9-volt; examples include toys, tv remotes, flashlights
- Button cells – long lasting; examples include watches, hearing aids, and car fobs
- Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) & Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) – rechargeable; examples include cordless power tools, cameras, and cordless phones
- Lead Acid – long lasting and rechargeable; examples include golf carts and automobiles
Prevention of Fire
Lithium-ion batteries are safe if used as intended. Numerous recalls of commercial products have occurred due to incorrect LIBs being utilized resulting in fires.
Li-ion and lead acid batteries cannot be fully discharged and must be stored with a remaining charge.
Nickel-based batteries can be stored in a fully discharged state with no apparent side effect. Heat combined with a full charge is said to induce more stress to Li-ion than regular cycling.
What to do When a Battery Overheats or Catches Fire
If a LIB overheats, hisses or bulges, immediately move the device away from flammable materials and place it on a non-combustible surface. If possible, remove the battery and put it outdoors to burn out. Simply disconnecting the battery from charge may not stop its destructive path.
How to Store Batteries to Prevent Fire
- Store LIBs and devices in dry, cool locations
- Avoid damaging LIBs and devices. Inspect them for signs of damage, such as bulging/cracking, hissing, leaking, rising temperature, and smoking before use, especially if they are wearable.
- Immediately remove a device or battery from service and place it in an area away from flammable materials if any of these signs are present
- Place LIBs in a fire resistant container (e.g., metal drum) with sand or other extinguishing agent and dispose in accordance with local, state, and federal regulations
How to Prepare Batteries for Storage or Shipping
Never remove embedded or built-in rechargeable batteries. If a battery doesn’t come out easily, the public should leave the battery alone and recycle the whole device.
- Use tape and/or plastic bags to completely isolate each device or battery to prevent terminal contacts and sparks*.
- Use cushioning material that is electrically nonconductive and nonreactive such as bubble wrap or packaging peanuts to prevent movement as needed under standard transport conditions.
- Use rigid, sturdy containers such as a plastic drum or enforced cardboard box to protect from impact or handling at transport facilities (container must meet strength requirements from a four-foot drop). Do not use flexible packaging or padded envelopes
* EPA recommends taping the battery terminals (or connections) with non-conductive tape. Electrical tape is preferred, but all adhesive tapes not made of metallic material will work. Alternatively, placing each battery in its own plastic bag also isolates the terminals.\
1. All batteries need to be protected against:
- Short circuits
- Movement within the outer packaging
- Accidental activation of the lithium powered device - the best way to do this is to keep batteries in the original, manufacturer-sealed packaging.
2. If batteries are not sealed in manufacturer packaging, the battery terminals should be protected (e.g., covered with tape, placed in separate bags) to prevent short circuits.
3. Batteries and electronic devices containing batteries should be securely packed to prevent movement within the outer packaging, or activation of the device.
4. Do not package batteries loosely or with metal objects, such as tools.
5. Place batteries and electronic devices containing batteries in a rigid, strong outer packaging.
6. When shipping lithium batteries, always check with your carrier first as they may require additional paperwork or shipping labels.
7. Any device with installed batteries must not turn on while in transport. Protect switches that can be accidentally activated. Even very simple devices like flashlights or rechargeable drills can generate a dangerous amount of heat if accidentally activated.