What’s with all these different kinds of batteries?

A battery is simply a storage unit for electrical energy. Batteries are usually named for one or two of the materials within the battery that store the energy. So, an alkaline battery is so named because it contains an alkaline electrolyte, usually potassium hydroxide.

The only major differences between batteries are their size and the materials used inside of them. The same applies for the difference between rechargeable and disposable batteries. Rechargeable batteries contain materials that can be rehcarged if electricity is pumped into the battery while disposable batteries contain materials that cannot be recharged. The most common disposable batteries are the alkaline battery and the lithium battery. The most common rechargeable batteries are lithium ion, nickel-cadmium, nickel metal hydride, nickel-zinc, and small sealed lead batteries. Batteries for devices like cell phones, iPods, and laptops are usually rechargeable while disposable batteries are the AA, AAA, D, etc. batteries that we use in many different appliances.

Related Information

How do I recycle my batteries?

Free alkaline battery recycling opportunities are not easy to find. Cost effective, environmentally safe recycling processors are not yet universally available. Since the mercury content of alkaline batteries has been reduced, they can be safely disposed of in household garbage. They are accepted via IKEA and some hardware and home improvement stores in small quantities. Large quantities can be recycled at Battery Recycling Made Easy in Calhoun, GA (678) 721-0022 or at Davis Recycling in Atlanta (404) 524-1746. Waste Management has begun a new program called Think Green From Home. This program allows consumers to ship old disposable batteries to WM for recycling for a small fee. Go to to find out more.

Rechargeable batteries that can be readily recycled include nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, and lithium ion-like those found in phones, camcorders, power tools and laptops. For information about recycling rechargeables, call 1-800-822-8837 or visit (Call2Recycle, Inc.). Participating locations include RadioShack, Home Depot, AT&T Mobility, Wal-Mart and Ace Hardware, plus many local community drop-off sites.


What about automobile batteries?

Automobile batteries, also known as lead acid batteries are prohibited from disposal in Georgia landfills. They must be recycled under Georgia law. Check with your local auto dealer, battery retail location, or other retail outlet about recycling these batteries. When you purchase a new auto battery, the dealer or retail outlet should accept your old one for recycling.

Recycling Resources
  • – Call2Recycle provides extensive resources to find a local location to take rechargeable batteries for free.
  • – Waste Management offers a cheap service through their new Think Green From Home program to recycle disposable batteries as well as compact fluorescent lights. For a small fee WM will mail you a package with prepaid postage for your batteries that you can then mail back to them for recycling.
  • – Earth 911 provides a searchable database for many recyclables, including batteries. Search by material and by zip code to narrow results to centers that take batteries in your area.
  • – Veolia Environmental Services offers a mail order 3.5 gallon RecyclePak for household disposable batteries.
  • – Battery Recycling Made Easy has over 50 years of battery manufacturing, recycling and process application experience, in addition to process engineering and material handling knowledge.