Battery Recycling

White metal bin with lid and roll of tape.

Batteries have become an essential part of our lives.  Whether disposable or rechargeable, batteries are ubiquitous and in fact are an integral component of many electronic devices and systems that we use daily and can’t seem to do without any longer.  PDAs, cell phones, personal computers, and many hand tools, operate on batteries or battery back-up devices.  The convenience of the battery is portability.  The danger of the battery is the potential for environmental harm.  Current battery technology often incorporates the use of a variety of toxic metals (e.g., lead, mercury, cadmium) and/or corrosive chemicals (e.g., sulfuric acid) to make batteries function. The proliferation of battery usage combined with EH&S’s mission of reducing the environmental impact of the University’s operations, prompted us to make battery recycling available to the University community with the installation of battery recycling receptacles throughout many campus buildings 

Assortment of various used batteries

Historically, EH&S collected batteries form laboratories and Facilities Management through the University’s Hazardous Waste Management Program.  In September 2001, EH&S attempted to make battery recycling more readily accessible to the University community with the placement of the first “publicly” accessible battery recycling receptacle in the corridors of CUMC.  Since its inception, EH&S’s battery recycling program has grown both in the number of battery recycling receptacles and in pounds of materials collected for recycling.  EH&S has collected more than 60,000 pounds (approximately 27 metric tons) of batteries for recycling.  Below is sample data from our recycling efforts.

Graph showing battery statistics at each Columbia campus

This program continues to progress, as new and interesting recycling technologies become available.  In 2010, EH&S began working with Call2Recycle, a division of the RBRC, where materials from batteries are reclaimed and reused.  Additionally, EH&S continued to install tape dispensers at all locations to provide the Columbia community with a means to protect battery terminals to prevent batteries from short circuiting and generating heat.  We encourage everyone to recycle their batteries, regardless of battery type in a safe and responsible manner.  Please DO NOT place damaged, leaking or bulging batteries, or large lead acid batteries in the receptacles as they can be very dangerous to handle.  Instead, contact EH&S by phone or via the electronic waste pick-up request available on the EH&S website.

New federal regulations require changes to the disposal process of batteries in the recycling containers on campus. There is one easy, but critical step now necessary prior to depositing batteries into the recycling containers. To prevent short circuit ensure the terminals cannot come into contact with other terminals, batteries, or metal objects by placing clear tape over the battery terminals, using the original battery packaging, or individually bagging each batteryAdditionally, alkaline batteries do not require battery terminal protection, so you can deposit these batteries “as-is” in our conveniently located collection centers.  

Recycle bin for cell phones.

For those who absolutely must have the newest gadget and replace your cell phones frequently, as well as for those of you who replace your cell phone less frequently, you may be interested to know that your cell phones, battery, charger and all, can be recycled through Columbia’s Public Safety Department. Just deposit them in the box located at the Public Safety Office. In turn, Public Safety coordinates with the Verizon Wireless HopeLine Program to donate the phones to victims of domestic violence. For more information, please contact Public Safety or visit the Verizon HopeLine website above.       

View the Columbia campus battery recycling receptacle locations.