The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate the disposal of batteries in small quantities; large quantities are regulated under the Universal rules of Hazardous Waste regulations (40 CFR PART 273). Lithium batteries are not currently being collected by manufacturers for recycling. Lithium batteries are currently disposed of after their use. While there are no federal regulations for disposal of lithium batteries, individual states or localities can establish their own guidelines for battery disposal, and should be contacted for any disposal guidelines that they may have.
Batteries for commercial use should be in a discharged condition prior to their disposal. Generally, a primary lithium cell is considered to be discharged once its voltage reaches 2 volts or less under a current of C/100 (C is the rated capacity of the battery in ampere-hours). Once discharged, large quantities of lithium batteries can be shipped to a hazardous waste facility for incineration. There are a few companies that recycle Lithium Batteries. The cost is quite significant to do this compared to incineration.
The shipment of live or discharged lithium batteries is governed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in their Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR), paragraph 173.185(j).
Incineration of lithium cells and batteries by consumers is not recommended. Incineration should be done at a properly permitted facility that can handle this waste. Contact you waste handler if you are unsure whether or not a facility can handle the batteries.
Lithium ion Batteries
Regulations and laws pertaining to the recycling and disposal of lithium ion batteries vary from country to country as well as by state and local governments. The European governments have more strict regulations on the disposal of rechargeable batteries than the USA and Canada. You will need to check the laws and regulations where you live.
The following is a recommendation of BikeRayUSA for our US customers:
There are a number of facilities that recycle Lithium Ion batteries. The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation’s web site, www.rbrc.org, is an excellent source for finding a facility to handle these types of batteries.
Remember that before any type of disposal the batteries should be discharged completely. Tape the contacts with electrical tape and package so as to prevent contacts accidentally coming together at any time. These batteries can be incinerated if you have a large quantity and they will need to be packaged as lithium ion batteries. Incineration must be performed by an approved and permitted waste treatment facility that handles lithium ion batteries. If you are not sure if your waste facility can handle lithium ion batteries, contact them and verify if they are permitted or not.
For home disposal, many stores offer free recycling of rechargeable batteries. If no outlet is available in your area, it is safe to dispose of these batteries in your regular trash. As always, check with your local laws to make sure that this is acceptable.