Rethink Batteries Businesses

RethinkWaste Goals

Whether you are an office building, apartment building, hotel/motel, retail store, restaurant, or school, all commercial businesses need to make sure that items that light up or move on its own have batteries and need to be disposed of safely.

RethinkWaste wants to partner with our community businesses to accomplish these 3 things:

  1. Ensure batteries are being properly disposed of and NOT going into the blue recycle cart.
  2. Prevent battery-related fires and environmental harm.
  3. Educate our residents how they can be part of the solution.

Click here to learn more about why proper battery disposal matters to us—and why it should matter to you!

Who We Serve

This program is for the businesses and residents of: Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, parts of unincorporated San Mateo County, and the West Bay Sanitary District.


How to Properly Dispose of Your Batteries

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.

All other businesses that are not a VSQG should use a licensed recycler to dispose of their universal waste such as batteries. For a list of authorized recyclers and other disposal information, contact San Mateo County Environmental Health Services at (650) 372-6200.


Batteries To Be On The Lookout For

Check if you have any of these batteries at your business that no longer carry charge!


Battery FAQs

We’ve received lots of battery related questions and wanted to share the answers with our RethinkWaste community. Click below to find the battery answers you’ve been looking for.

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 and store batteries in a plastic bag before proper disposal. See how to properly tape your used batteries in the video below.

Watch is short how-to video to learn how to tape your terminals.

What do I do with products that have embedded (not easily removable) batteries such as mobile phones, laptops and/or power tools?

It’s best if you can remove the battery safely from the device. If you cannot, please visit RecycleStuff.org for places to recycle e-waste items with batteries such as laptops, cell phones, and MP3 players. Other items with embedded lithium-ion batteries such as toothbrushes, razors, and vape pens should be properly disposed of via San Mateo County’s Very Small Quantity Generator Program if you’re a business that generates less than 220 pounds or 27 gallons of hazardous waste a month. You can make an appointment online at smchealth.org/vsqg.

Why do I have to use clear tape to tape my battery terminals?

Clear tape (like the small rolls you use at home or packaging tape) is essential for our team to properly sort the different battery types. Because there are quite a few different types of batteries that need to be sorted by chemistry make up, clear tape allows us to read the various labels and ensure the correct battery gets placed with its friends. Dark tape like electrical or duct tape would prevent us from reading the labels clearly.

Which batteries are the most dangerous?

Lithium-ion batteries contain more power than other batteries and are delicately packaged. When damaged, the battery can short out, heat up, and catch on fire as seen in the video below. Click here to learn more about lithium batteries and the types of products they can be found in.

Watch a lithium ion battery catch fire under pressure.

What are the most common products that people mistakenly think don’t have batteries but actually do?

Some of the most common items that people forget have batteries are the smaller everyday things that have lights such as light-up or musical greeting cards, light-up shoes, and even light-up pens. If you’re not sure whether a product has a battery, a good rule of thumb is to remember that nearly every electronic device that has an on/off switch, makes sounds, or has lights, has a battery.

Where do batteries go and what happens to them?

Batteries that are properly collected get sent to a third-party that sorts the batteries by type and then they safely extract the valuable metals inside.

Why can’t I place my batteries with other recyclables?

Batteries contain materials/metals that can be recycled, but not in the normal way your blue cart materials are recycled. Since batteries contain chemicals and potentially leftover charge, they must go through a separate process to safely extract the valuable materials inside.

Are rechargeable batteries better than single-use batteries?

Rechargeable batteries are reusable, resulting in reduced waste and cost. However, reusable batteries contain more chemicals than single-use alkaline batteries, so you must remember to handle them with care. To ensure all rechargeable batteries are recycled responsibly, check out companies like Call2Recycle for their different collection options.

What do I do with my lead-acid batteries from cars or computers?

If you’re a business that generates less than 220 pounds or 27 gallons of hazardous waste a month, you can bring them to San Mateo County’s Very Small Quantity Generator Program. You can make an appointment online at smchealth.org/vsqg.

Caution: Lithium Batteries May Start Fires

Lithium-ion batteries contain more power than other batteries and are delicately packaged. When damaged, the battery can short out, heat up, and catch on fire as seen in the video below. Click here to learn more about lithium batteries and the types of products they can be found in.

Ask The Battery Expert

Have a battery question? Get answers by asking our battery expert using the form below.

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WHY DOES PROPER BATTERY DISPOSAL MATTER?

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Batteries that find their way into our black garbage carts end up in our local landfill. After a little time, they can corrode and allow harmful chemicals to leach into the soil and make their way into our water supply.

Batteries can also cause landfill fires which release toxic chemicals into the air, leading to potential health problems for anyone who inhales those fumes. Help make a positive impact on our environment by not disposing of used batteries in your garbage. Instead, explore the different battery disposal methods below.

DID YOU KNOW 3 billion batteries are thrown away and end up in landfills every year?

SAFETY IMPACT

DID YOU KNOW chemicals in batteries can cause everything from serious skin irritation to cancer?

Batteries that end up in our blue recycling carts are brought to the Shoreway Environmental Center. In 2016 a battery started a 4-alarm fire that closed the facility for months and caused millions of dollars in damages.

In fact, lithium-ion batteries have caused concerns for many consumer products such as cell phones, laptops, and headphones that explode or catch on fire. Properly disposing of your batteries and taping your battery terminals can help keep your business and community safe.