Watch batteries are small, round, silver coloured and permanently sealed. Because of their shape and size, they are commonly called button cell or coin cell batteries. They are used in wristwatches, pocket calculators, cameras, hearing aids and other smaller electronic devices. Watch batteries are almost always non-rechargeable and should be recycled because they contain hazardous materials.
Watch batteries or button cells are manufactured with different compositions. One common watch battery is Silver Oxide, which is often recycled for the extraction of precious silver. However, other button cell batteries are composed of heavy metals including mercury, cadmium, zinc and lithium which are recycled to prevent contamination to the environment.
Concern over the dangers posed by mercury prompted the United States government to restrict the sale of mercury oxide batteries in 1996. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that button cells are allowed to contain low levels of added mercury to prevent internal corrosion. Watch batteries also contain several heavy metals and other toxic substances harmful to humans and the environment. For these reasons the EPA advise that watch batteries and other button cells be recycled rather than thrown away. Extracting heavy and precious metals, along with the ease of handling, make recycling watch batteries profitable for some companies.
To replace a watch battery, the back cover must be removed which often requires a special tool. If you are unable to do so, many retailers will replace a used battery at no extra cost when purchasing a new one. Vendors can dispose of the old battery if they are using a recycling program.
New and used watch batteries are safe to touch because they are factory sealed, securely containing hazardous materials inside. Never handle a corroded battery. If corrosion is visible, use non-metallic tweezers or rubber gloves to place the battery in a plastic bag or container. When storing for recycling, ensure batteries are stored in a recycle safe container preferably with electrical tape around each battery. Keep watch batteries out of reach of young children as they pose a choking hazard.
Interstate Batteries collect every type of button cell at their All Battery Center store locations throughout the U.S., at no charge. Some larger chain stores accept most rechargeable batteries, but may also take single use watch batteries or know where to dispose of them. The website Earth911.com enables visitors to input their zip code or address for any U.S. location, and provides a list of battery-recycling depots nearby. Many cities offer hazardous waste drop off locations during the year. Check local and state listings for environmental services.
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