Rethink Batteries

RethinkWaste Goals

If an item lights up, makes sound, or moves on its own WITHOUT being plugged into the wall—there’s a great chance that item contains some type of battery.

RethinkWaste wants to partner with our community members 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 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

Residents who participate in the curbside pickup program have an easy, simple, and FREE way to properly dispose of your household batteries. The curbside program accepts 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.

STEP 1: COLLECT IT!

Collect ALL your household batteries that no longer carry a charge.

STEP 2: TAPE IT!

Prevent fires by taping over battery terminals with clear tape.  The terminals, or exposed metal parts, of certain batteries can rub together creating a spark.

STEP 3: BAG IT!

Put all your batteries into a clear plastic zip-top bag. Properly seal the bag to ensure no batteries fall out.

STEP 4: PLACE IT!

Place the sealed bag on top of your black garbage cart on your regular collection day.

A NOTE ABOUT THOSE ORANGE BATTERY BAGS: For the curbside battery program, you may use any zip-top bag to place your household batteries in. If you would like to use the orange collection bags, click here for a list of locations. Please check with the location to see if it is open first. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many local city halls and RethinkWaste and Recology’s administrative offices are closed.


Batteries To Be On The Lookout For

If you have any of the below batteries at home that no longer carry charge—we’re happy to take them off your hands absolutely free!


Battery FAQs

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

Where can I get additional orange battery bags for the curbside battery program?

For Recology’s curbside battery collection program, you may use any clear zip-top bag to place your household batteries in.

If you would like to use the orange collection bags, click here for a list of locations where you may pick one up. Please check with the location to see if it is open first. Due to current Shelter-in-Place orders, many local city halls and RethinkWaste and Recology’s administrative offices are closed.

What types of bags can I put my batteries in?

You may place your used batteries in any clear zip-top bag.

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.

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.

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

Lead-acid batteries are accepted at the Shoreway Public Recycling Center for proper disposal.

Why can’t I place my batteries with my 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.

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

It’s best if you can remove the battery safely from the device. If you cannot, e-waste items with batteries such as laptops, cell 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.

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 home and community safe.