top of page



Rechargeable and Lithium Battery Facts

  • Rechargeable batteries contain toxic heavy metals such as lead, nickel, cadmium, and mercury

    • These materials are harmful to the environment and pose human health hazards

  • The above image box shows typical equipment and electronic devices that use rechargeable batteries. 

  • Rechargeable batteries should be recycled to prevent environmental harm and reuse useful materials

  • The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation* (RBRC) offers Call2Recycle for free disposal of rechargeable batteries and cell phones for businesses and individuals.

    • Businesses can support battery recycling by sponsoring* a dropoff box for free.  

  • More recycling information can be found on the Community Resources and Links page.


Types of Rechargeable Batteries and their Dangers

  • Lead-Acid 

    • Lead-Acid batteries are the oldest type of rechargeable batteries.

    • Lead is a highly poisonous heavy metal.

    • Lead exposure can cause anemia, seizures, coma, damage to nervous, reproductive, urinary, and systems, or death*

    • Can cause irritation to skin, mucous membranes in eyes, or upper respiratory system and burns to skin

    • When Lead-Acid batteries are improperly disposed of or stored

      • Gas-venting valves can fail, resulting in explosion or fire

        • If the battery casing is ruptured, acid and shrapnel can be sprayed around the area

        • One explosion like this can ignite other cells within the battery or other nearby batteries

      • Lead and sulfuric acid can contaminate groundwater or nearby waterbodies

Rechargeable batteries are typically found in these devices:

Cellphone Store Display
Battery Management Strategy

Rechargeable Battery Management Strategy

Conducting a Workplace Assessment for Rechargeable Battery Management

  • The safe storage and management of rechargeable batteries is important to minimize the risk of contamination in your workplace

  • Survey how many items your business uses that require rechargeable batteries--if you have an equipment change-out planned, include that in your estimate

  • Explore other recycling options and resources available for businesses and responsible recycling

  • Educate your maintenance and technical staff about how to implement the management strategy

    • Inform them of the importance of recovering all batteries

  • Coordinate storage, packaging, and shipping logistics with appropriate staff (building engineers, information technology or audio-visual specialists, maintenance workers, custodial staff, etc.)

  • Kick-off the management program with an informational meeting with participants to recruit their support

  • Periodically review the program to evaluate its effectiveness and to make improvements

Storage and Disposal

Safe Storage and Handling of Batteries


The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments battery handling guidance as part of their GoRecycle campaign*


This and other information on safe storage and handling of batteries can be seen in the Know Toxics Universal Waste & Used Electronics Training Manual*, pages 9-10.

  • A handler of universal waste batteries must manage them in a way that prevents releases to the environment

  • Handlers of universal waste batteries must ensure that the casing of each individual battery cell is not breached

    • Cells may be opened to remove electrolyte

  • If a battery cell or casing is breached, it must be managed as hazardous waste


  • Containers of universal waste batteries must be properly labeled, structurally sound, and compatible with the contents of the stored material

  • It is recommended to add the date to the label since handlers can only store universal waste material on-site for up to one year


It is highly recommended that battery terminals be insulated to avoid electrical discharge during storage and transportation. This must be done using non-electrical duct tape, as metallic duct tape can easily cause reaction or fire.


Damaged Batteries

*External link. The Northern Virginia Regional Commission does not author third party sites and their reference is for educational purposes only.

Resources and Regulations

Resources and Regulations

DEQ Regulations*

More Resources

bottom of page