Navigating regulations on how to ship batteries for recycling can seem like a maze, but don’t leave the job undone. 

How to responsibly ship batteries for recycling is causing many industries a massive headache. As electronic devices with built-in batteries have proliferated, so has the need for responsible recycling. But finding someone who will take on the job is usually the next challenge. Extracting batteries from AirPods or vaping devices, for example, is incredibly time-consuming even for seasoned recycling experts. 

For companies that sit on batteries ready for disposal, the initial confusion often concerns how to kick off the downstream journey. Piecing together federal, state, and local laws and regulations that govern the packaging, labeling, manifesting, and transportation of batteries may seem so laborious that it’s hardly surprising if you want to shelve the project for another time. 

Still, we all know getting battery recycling right is crucial, both for the sake of the environment and to comply with the law. Mishandling of dangerous goods can result in disastrous consequences, like serious accidents, tens of thousands of dollars in fines, and being placed on blacklists which could ban your business from shipping in the future. 

When it comes to that first step — shipping — many of the companies that seek our assistance have questions about the documentation required by the Department of Transportation (DOT), what it takes to correctly package the batteries for pickup, and when a hazmat-certified courier may be needed. 

We routinely respond by sharing a detailed outline of how to identify chemistries and, then, how to match the information with the correct UN number and packaging requirements for each battery type. 

The answers to your questions on how to package and ship batteries for recycling all depend on what you’re looking to part with:

Lithium Primary and Lithium Ion Batteries

This category of batteries has seen explosive growth in recent years with increased use of both rechargeable and non-rechargeable power sources found in laptops, mobile phones, tablets, medical devices, power tools, drones, cameras, and more. The challenge, as several high-profile accidents have proven, is their volatile and highly flammable state. They can ignite if dropped, crushed, or short-circuited, and cause fires if wrongly packed. 

Consequently, devices that contain these types of batteries are classified as dangerous goods and 49 CFR 173 regulates their transportation. 

Lead-Acid Batteries (vented and SSLA)

Few batteries deliver bulk power as affordably as lead acid. Their cost-effectiveness has made them common in cars, forklifts, marine and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), and back-up power systems. 

Because of their corrosiveness and short-circuit fire hazard, lead-acid batteries are strictly regulated. For instance, batteries must be packed on pallets in a way that prevents short circuits, and the terminals must be taped and separated by cardboard if stacked. 

Nickel-Cadmium Batteries 

The standard nickel-cadmium batteries (sealed cells and industrial cells) are considered one of the most rugged and forgiving but demands proper care to ensure longevity. While the former — sealed cells — started out as the battery of choice for two-way radios, power tools, and professional video cameras, the latter — industrial cells — see the most use in military applications, emergency backup power systems, and commercial rail systems. 

At risk of overheating and short-circuiting, nickel-cadmium batteries and power packs must be packaged and shipped in accordance with 49 CFR 173. 

Nickel-Metal-Hydride Batteries

Nickel-metal-hydride batteries are one of the most common rechargeable batteries for consumer use. Panasonic, Energizer, Duracell, and Rayovac offer them in AA, AAA, and other sizes. They are also found in electric vehicles, laptops, and cellular phones. Although not regulated as hazardous materials, all DOT packaging requirements have to be met as unprotected terminals can result in short-circuit fires.

Alkaline Batteries

The common alkaline battery, or the household battery, used in flashlights, remote controls, and other appliances is not regulated as hazardous materials. No labeling or special packaging is required as long as they are not shipped with other battery types. Alkaline batteries over 9V, however, need a Class 8 Corrosive label.

Next step

Once we receive your shipment at our R2-certified facility, we verify all details, including packaging and labels, before we pass it on to our downstream recycling partners. If you have any questions along the way on how to ship batteries for recycling, our team members are here to help. Making the complex easy for our customers is what we do best. 

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