How is California Doing with Recycling Rechargeable Batteries?

Most portable electronic devices use rechargeable batteries, and millions of rechargeable batteries are sold in California each year. California no longer allows batteries to be disposed of in the trash because they contain toxic metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel. If released, these metals may be harmful to humans and the environment.


In 2005, to help promote proper disposal of rechargeable batteries by the public, the Governor signed the California Rechargeable Battery Recycling Act, which requires retailers to have a mechanism to accept all rechargeable batteries from consumers for recycling. To track how effective this program is, the law requires DTSC to survey battery handling and/or recycling facilities and post on its web site, by July 1 of each year, the estimated amount, by weight, of each type of rechargeable batteries returned for recycling in California during the previous calendar year.


DTSC receives data voluntarily submitted by the major California battery recyclers to estimate how many rechargeable batteries, by type (e.g., nickel-cadmium, nickel metal hydride, etc.), are collected in each calendar year.

 
Approximate Quantities of Rechargeable Batteries Collected for Recycling in California in 2017:

   400,000    pounds of nickel cadmium batteries (Ni-Cd)
   500,000    pounds of lithium ion batteries (Li-ion)
1,100,000    pounds of nickel metal hydride batteries (Ni-MH)
2,300,000    pounds of small lead acid batteries (SS Lead Acid)

 
Chart showing pounds of batteries by type, i.e. Ni-Cd, Li-ion, Ni-MH
 
Chart of pounds of small sealed lead acid batteries recycled by year
 
Data Limitations

It is difficult to accurately estimate the rechargeable batteries collected for recycling in California due to the following reasons:

  • Some battery handlers and recyclers do not track the state from which batteries are collected;
  • Batteries contained within electronic devices that are recycled (e.g., cell phones and laptop computers) are not counted separately but may represent a significant portion of the total quantity;
  • There may be duplicate data as some battery handlers collect batteries from other collection points (we have attempted to mitigate this problem by gathering our data from major battery handlers who often collect batteries from smaller collection centers); and
  • California law does not require battery handlers or recyclers to report the number or weight of batteries collected for recycling.
 
For More Information

The following fact sheet has more information on rechargeable batteries: