Mercury-containing Batteries

Mercury batteries

Button-cell batteries are currently excluded from Washington's ban on most mercury-containing products. It is very important that mercury-containing batteries are properly recycled. 

Samuel Ruben (1900 - 1988) developed the zinc-mercuric oxide alkaline battery in 1942. Today's modern button-cell batteries are the descendents of those.  There is not yet a good substitute for mercury in button-cells in the United States, and their use is not banned under the Mercury Education and Reduction Act.  Larger mercury batteries, not button cells, can no longer be sold.  The ones on the left were collected in Washington.

Button cell

Recognizing Mercury-containing Batteries

Most button-call batteries contain mercury.  They are flat and circular.  The batteries found in watches, hearing aids, cameras, and even toys often contain mercury.

Old mercury batteries will usually say that they have mercury.  Look for the word mercury or its chemical symbol, Hg. 

Routes of Exposure

Mercury-containing batteries are safe through normal use. However, they can release mercury to the environment if they are burned or otherwise improperly disposed of.

Mercury-containing Battery Recycling

Residents of Washington state, call 1-800-RECYCLE or check the Web site for locations where you may take mercury-containing batteries. There is no curbside recycling of batteries in Washington state.

Regulated businesses should see the Mercury Laws and Rules—Universal Waste Rules to learn about special rules that facilitate recycling of certain mercury-containing products, including mercury-containing batteries.

Related information

EPA's Table of Products That May Contain Mercury and Recommended Management Options
Universal Waste Rule: WAC 173-303-573 contains information specific to batteries