Batteries power our daily lives, whether we realize it or not. They help us power through daily chores and activities, stay connected with one another, and they can even help shine a light on some dark situations. In fact—nearly every electronic device that we own has a battery that requires proper handling. And whether your batteries are single-use alkaline, rechargable, or lithium-ion—they all eventually reach the end of their life.
Below are answers to some of the questions from our survey.
Question: What is the correct way to dispose of used, loose batteries?
Depending on the type of residence you live in and services available to you, below are the different options to properly dispose of loose batteries.
I am a resident who lives in a home participating in the 3-cart curbside program
Residents that live in a single-family home, townhome, duplex, triplex or an apartment or condominium building with 4 units or less and participate in the curbside pickup program have an easy, simple, and FREE way to properly dispose of your household batteries.
Which batteries are and aren’t accepted in curbside collection program?
We will accept all single-use, rechargeable, and lithium-ion household batteries. Lead acid and car batteries are not accepted. These should be taken to Shoreway Environmental Center or San Mateo County’s Household Hazardous Waste Program.
Battery Collection Locations
There are also over 20 convenient and free drop-off locations within the RethinkWaste service area where you can take your household batteries. See the map below. Please call the location before heading out to make sure they are open and if there is a limit.
I am a resident who lives in an apartment or condominium with 5 units or more
Residents that live in an apartment or condominium with 5 units or more have 3 free and simple options available for safe and proper battery disposal.
OPTION #1: Orange battery buckets
Some apartments or condominiums participate in our battery bucket program. These orange buckets, as pictured below, are normally found in common areas such as a lobby, multi-use room, mailroom, or club house. To use it, follow the below easy and simple steps:
No Bucket? No Problem!
If you don’t see one at your location, ask your property manager or owner to get a bucket for your building(s) from Recology San Mateo County for free! Please note that only property managers/owners can request a bucket and coordinate pickups.
OPTION #2: Battery Drop-Off
There are over 20 convenient and free drop-off locations within the RethinkWaste service area. See the map below. Please call the location before heading out to make sure they are open and if there is a limit.
OPTION #3: San Mateo County’s Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Program
Dispose of all your toxic waste (including your batteries) with the County. Click here for a list of all accepted HHW items. San Mateo County’s HHW Program is a free recycling and disposal service for all County residents by appointment only. To participate, you must schedule an appointment at smchealth.org/hhw or call (650) 363-4718, select option 3.
I am a small business owner or manager
Small businesses that generate less than 220 pounds or 27 gallons of hazardous waste per month may contact San Mateo County’s Very Small Quantity Generator (VSQG) Program for more information on business hazardous waste disposal by calling (650) 372-6200 or at smchealth.org/vsqg.
Question: What is the proper way to dispose of batteries in products that are not easily removable (i.e. batteries found in mobile phones, electronic toothbrushes, light-up shoes, etc)?
It’s best if you can remove the battery safely from the device. If you cannot:
- E-waste items with batteries such as laptops, mobile phones, and MP3 players can be taken to the Shoreway Public Recycling Center in San Carlos free of charge.
- Other items with embedded lithium-ion batteries such as toothbrushes, razors and vape pens should be properly disposed of via San Mateo County’s Household Hazardous Waste Program. You can make an appointment online at smchealth.org/hhw.
Question: Why is taping battery terminals helpful?
Bagging and taping batteries helps because covering the terminals prevents batteries from rubbing together and creating a spark.
Residents should tape terminals with clear tape (like regular household tape or packing tape) and store batteries in a zip-top plastic bag before proper disposal.
It is important to only use CLEAR tape so the workers sorting the battery types can still clearly read the battery labels.
See how to properly tape your used batteries in this video.
Ask The Battery Expert
Have a battery question that’s not listed above? Get answers by asking our battery expert. Simply fill out the form below!