Veterinary Compliance Assistance

Waste Reduction—Batteries


Types of Batteries

Alkaline: Common household batteries, AAA, AA, C, D, 9-volt. They can contain mercury, chromium and zinc.

Lead-acid: Used in vehicles, wheelchairs, forklifts, and portable generators. They contain lead.

Lithium: Used in some cameras. They contain chromium.

Mercuric oxide: Also known as 'button' batteries. Used in hearing aids, cameras, smoke detectors, tape recorders, electronic computers, voltage regulators, pagers, oxygen monitors, fetal monitors, portable EKG monitors, and until recently, in cardiac pacemakers. They contain mercury.

Nickel-cadmium: Rechargeable batteries used in calculators, handheld tools, alarm systems, pages and as back-up power sources in medical monitors and equipment (usually built in by manufacturer).  Although these are rechargeable and can be used many times, they eventually need to be disposed of and contain high levels of nickel and cadmium.

Silver cadmium: Used in medical electronics and require high-energy density and constant voltage. Contain silver and cadmium.

Zinc-air: This button battery has been developed as an alternative to the mercuric oxide battery, though it is not mercury free. It is used in such devices as hearing aids and electronic pagers. They contain zinc and mercury.


  • When batteries are incinerated, the heavy metals in them can contaminate the incinerator ash and air.
  • Heavy metals from batteries can leach out of landfills and pollute water sources.
  • Heavy metals have whole host of neurological effects on humans … lead, mercury and cadmium are well-documented.

Compliance Requirements

  • Most batteries, other than alkalines, are regulated hazardous waste due to the toxicity characteristic and won't pass Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) tests.
  • If you are going to treat batteries as solid waste, rather than hazardous waste, make sure you have documentation that they have passed TCLP tests.
  • If you do determine your batteries to be hazardous, they can be treated as universal waste if your state has adopted the federal regulations on Universal Waste. This will allow you to subtract the weight of battery waste from your hazardous waste totals, and allow you some lenience in packing and transportation requirements.
  • Batteries need to be packaged in a non-flammable container and the ends must be capped/wrapped to prevent sparking.


Not many alternatives … just need to recycle them.

Battery Recycling Tips

  • Use non-flammable containers
  • Tape ends to prevent sparking
  • Offer alkaline batteries to staff to use in Walkmans, toys etc. as most batteries are only used once and changed our immediately after the procedure regardless of charge left.
  • Work with a Universal Waste hauler
  • Use containers supplied by haulers if they supply them and you can pay by the 'bucket'
  • Place battery collection containers in soiled utility rooms if properly labeled, in proper containers with proper packaging
  • Hold "Battery Round-up" for staff

More Resources

Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Act

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