Types of Batteries
Alkaline: Common household batteries, AAA, AA,
C, D, 9-volt. They can contain mercury, chromium and zinc.
Lead-acid: Used in vehicles, wheelchairs, forklifts,
and portable generators. They contain lead.
Lithium: Used in some cameras. They contain chromium.
Mercuric oxide: Also known as 'button' batteries.
Used in hearing aids, cameras, smoke detectors, tape
recorders, electronic computers, voltage regulators, pagers, oxygen monitors,
fetal monitors, portable EKG monitors, and until recently, in cardiac pacemakers.
They contain mercury.
Nickel-cadmium: Rechargeable batteries used in calculators,
handheld tools, alarm systems, pages and as back-up power sources in medical
monitors and equipment (usually built in by manufacturer). Although these
are rechargeable and can be used many times, they eventually need to be disposed
of and contain high levels of nickel and cadmium.
Silver cadmium: Used in medical electronics and require
high-energy density and constant voltage. Contain silver and cadmium.
Zinc-air: This button battery has been developed
as an alternative to the mercuric oxide battery, though it is not mercury free.
It is used in such devices as hearing aids and electronic pagers. They contain
zinc and mercury.
- When batteries are incinerated, the heavy metals in them
can contaminate the incinerator ash and air.
- Heavy metals from batteries can leach out of landfills
and pollute water sources.
- Heavy metals have whole host of neurological effects
on humans … lead, mercury and cadmium are well-documented.
- Most batteries, other than alkalines, are regulated hazardous waste
due to the toxicity characteristic and won't pass Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) tests.
- If you are going to treat batteries as solid waste, rather
than hazardous waste, make sure you have documentation that they have passed
- If you do determine your batteries to be hazardous, they can be
treated as universal waste if your state has adopted the federal regulations
on Universal Waste. This will allow you to subtract the weight of battery
waste from your hazardous waste totals, and allow you some lenience in packing
and transportation requirements.
- Batteries need to be packaged in a non-flammable container
and the ends must be capped/wrapped to prevent sparking.
Not many alternatives … just need to recycle them.
Battery Recycling Tips
- Use non-flammable containers
- Tape ends to prevent sparking
- Offer alkaline batteries to staff to use in Walkmans,
toys etc. as most batteries are only used once and changed our immediately
after the procedure regardless of charge left.
- Work with a Universal Waste hauler
- Use containers supplied by haulers if they supply them and you can pay by the 'bucket'
- Place battery collection containers in soiled utility
rooms if properly labeled, in proper containers with proper packaging
- Hold "Battery Round-up" for staff
An Ounce of Prevention: Waste Reduction Strategies
for Healthcare Facilities. ASHES of the American Hospital Association. AHA
Catalogue No: 057007. 1993. P139-41. EPA: http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/materials/battery.htm
Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Act (PDF): http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/laws-regs/state/policy/p1104.pdf