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Battery Recycling

How to Recycle Batteries

To make it easy for faculty, staff and students to appropriately dispose of ALL batteries, Penn State has established seperate processes for recycling both rechargeable and nonrechargleable batteries.

Rechargeable Batteries

The University is legally obligated to collect and recycle rechargeable batteries (Nickel Cadmium, Nickel Metal Hydride and Lithium-ion) which all contain components that are hazardous to people and/or the environment.

To collect rechargeable batteries, battery buckets located in over 100 building locations have been replaced with a Battery Mailer Program complete with instructions. Each building now has Battery Collection Leader(s) in charge of managing the mailer program (find your building's Battery Collection Leader here). People are now instructed to use these mailers to send only rechargeable batteries to Environmental Health and Safety (EHS).

Non-Rechargeable Batteries

Non-rechargeable batteries (alkaline batteries such as AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V) are no longer required by law to be recycled as they do not pose a significant hazard to people or the environment.

Centralized Battery Collection Stations are available at the following campus locations for people to dispose of non-rechargeable batteries which will be landfilled. 

  • HUB-Robeson Center (Inside West entrance)
  • Westgate Building - IST (Near Au Bon Pain)
  • Smeal Business Building (Second Floor break room)
  • Pattee Library (Inside mall entrance)
  • Innovation Park (226 Outreach Building)
  • Findlay Commons (Outside of Housing office, 134 Johnson Commons)
  • South Halls (Outside Housing office, 202 Redifer)
  • Hosler Building (Near the ground floor elevator)
  • Office of the Physical Plant (Outside room 128 & vending machines)
  • Technical Support Building at Science Park Road (in the lobby, next to the gym)

Batteries are not to be brought from home!

Recycled batteries should be from University business only. For disposing batteries used at home, please contact CCRRA or visit their Recycling FAQs page.

Types of Batteries

Penn State is committed to the proper recycling and disposal of used batteries generated during University operations. Below please find information to help ensure that used batteries are recycled/disposed safely and according to federal and state regulations.

Rechargeable Batteries

Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) Batteries:
Typically used in cordless tools, two-way radios, laptop computers, cell phones and other equipment. These batteries contain cadmium, a heavy metal that is hazardous to people and the environment. 

Nickle Metal Hydride (NiMH) Batteries: 
Typically used in cordless tools, laptop computers, cell phones and other equipment. The components of these batteries are hazardous to the environment.

Lead Acid Batteries:
Typically used as a backup power supply for computers (UPS), emergency lighting, security and fire alarms and to power vehicles. These batteries contain lead and sulfuric acid, both of which are hazardous to people and the environment. (Car batteries from Penn State fleet and department cars are recycled through OPP's garage. Take your battery to the garage or email for pick up.)

Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) Batteries: 
Typically used in photographic equipment, cell phones, cordless tools and laptop computers, and are becoming more common. These batteries are hazardous to the environment and pose a significant fire risk if not handled properly.

For more information about rechargeable batteries, please visit a Beginner's Guide to Rechargeable Batteries.


Non-Rechargeable Batteries

Alkaline Batteries:
Typically used to power radios, flash lights, and other equipment. These batteries contain a small amount of potassium hydroxide, which does not pose a significant hazard to people or the environment. These batteries are not required to be collected and can be disposed in the regular trash or placed in a Centralized Battery Collection Station for landfilling.

Lithium batteries can store more energy than most single use batteries, therefore offering a longer shelf life. Lithium batteries cannot be recharged, but Lithium-Ion batteries can. Lithium batteries are most commonly used in high drain devices, like digital cameras. These batteries can be disposed of through Environmental Health and Safety.

Dry-Cell Batteries:
Typically include alkaline, carbon zinc (9-volt, D, C, AA, AAA), mercuric-oxide (button, some cylindrical and rectangular), silver-oxide and zinc-air (button) batteries. Most small, round "button-cell" type batteries are found in items such as watches and hearing aids and contain mercury, silver, cadmium, lithium or other heavy metals that are hazardous to people and the environment. These batteries should be disposed of through Environmental Health and Safety.

Large Batteries >3 lbs:
Contact EHS directly for the recycling of large batteries. 

Batteries are not to be brought from home!

Recycled batteries should be from University business only. For disposing batteries used at home, please contact CCRRA or visit their Recycling FAQs page.


Unsure of what to do with your battery? Follow this flow chart.

Batteries are not to be brought from home!

Recycled batteries should be from University business only. For disposing batteries used at home, please contact CCRRA or visit their Recycling FAQs page.


Request Additional Mailers

Have you run out of preaddressed envelopes in your office?

Please contact Environmental Health and Safety at 814-865-6391 to request more.


Frequently Asked Questions

My building has the mailer system and we've run out of plastic bags. How do we order more?
When bags are empty, please contact Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) at 814-865-6391.

I'm not sure how to bag my batteries for the mailer program.
Batteries that come through the mailer program should be individually bagged or have both terminals taped with clear packing tape. The mailer can be sent back to EHS when full. Do not seal the mailers with the glue strip, please use the grommets to close the envelopes so they can be reused multiple times.


How often will the Central Battery Collection Stations be emptied?
Office of the Physical Plant empties the central stations approximately every two weeeks.

Why can’t I bring my batteries from home?
Batteries recycled at Penn State must have been used in University-related business. Recycling batteries from home on campus is considered theft of (operational) services. There are locations in the Centre Region where you can easily drop off your rechargeable batteries:

Best Buy
1650 N Atherton St
State College, PA 16803

Lowe's Home Improvement
104 Valley Vista Dr
State College, PA 16803

Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority
253 Transfer Road
Bellefonte, PA 16823

Can I throw away alkaline batteries?
Alkaline batteries are non-rechargeable and are considered safe in the landfill. Even though components of the batteries–steel, zinc, and manganese and potassium hydroxide–don’t pose environmental risks in the solid waste stream, those metals are difficult to recover from batteries. Alkaline batteries can be thrown in the trash.  They are not accepted through the mailer program and unit mailer contacts should NOT collect alkaline batteries on behalf of their constituents.

Why do I need to bag rechargeable batteries?
It is a fire hazard. When the terminals of batteries touch, it can cause a spark and a fire.

How many batteries can I put into a bag?
Bag only ONE rechargeable battery at a time. Non-rechargeable batteries do not need to be bagged.

At the Central Collection Station, do alkaline batteries need to be bagged?
No. Alkaline batteries can be placed into the non-rechargeable battery slot.

What do I do with my lead acid batteries?
Please call Environmental Health and Safety at 814-865-6391 for a special pick-up or put in a special recycling request.

What would happen if my rechargeable batteries were not recycled properly?
The toxic materials within rechargeable batteries can be released into the environment and pose serious threats to human health and the environment. If placed in landfills, the toxic materials can leak into the soil, which can then reach our water supply. If incinerated, toxic fumes are produced. The metal and plastic materials used in batteries will remain in the landfill forever, but if recycled could be turned into new products.

Will this change eliminate a job at Penn State?
Penn State’s Office of the Physical Plant is dedicated to operational efficiency, safety, and fiscal responsibility. The new battery recycling collection system will not eliminate jobs at the University. The new system will reduce the risk of fire in our buildings and contribute to a more efficient sorting and disposal process.

I have prototype batteries from my research. How do I dispose them?
Please contact Environmental Health and Safety at 814-865-6391.

Is battery recycling available at Commonwealth Campuses?
Campuses should contact their EHS Regional Coordinators for any battery recycling inquiries. Regional Coordinators can be found at the EHS online directory.

What types of batteries can be recycled?
​Rechargeable: Ni-Cad, Ni-MH, Li-Ion, lead acid

How do I recycle my batteries?
Rechargeable batteries may be recycled at the Central Battery Recycling Locations or via the mailer system available through your building’s Facilities Coordinator. Batteries must be bagged, sealed, and then placed in the Central Battery Recycling Station OR in an envelope and mailed to EHS.
Non-chargeable batteries may be thrown in the trash. 

Can I send small electronics through the mailer program?
Small electronics are to be collected in the central recycle stations only and the batteries should be removed and bagged. Other electronics should be disposed of as normal through Lion Surplus.

Which batteries are best choices for purchase?
Rechargeable batteries are your best buy for your wallet and the environment. NiMH is the best option for purchase. Remember to recharge your batteries right before you use them to get the maximum charge. Rechargeable batteries generally lose 4% charge per day just sitting around. Reusing batteries not only minimizes the quantity sent for disposal and recycling, it is also cost effective.

How many batteries per year does Penn State recycle?
Penn State recycled approximately 27,000 pounds of batteries each year, 16,000 pounds of which were lead acid batteries, and 11,000 were rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries.  Penn State no longer recycles alkaline batteries.

Why are rechargeable batteries able to be collected in each building but non-rechargeable batteries only at central recycling locations?
The central locations ensure that non-rechargeable and rechargeable batteries are separated to reduce the risk of fire in our building. The new recycling system will also contribute to a more efficient sorting and disposal process.