Rubbish Talk
Rubbish Talk

6. What do I do with hazardous items like batteries?

What do I do with my little AA batteries?
Do not dispose of these and cell batteries in any kerbside bins. Take non damaged batteries to your nearest EcoDrop, any Bunnings, Ferrymead Countdown, Mitre 10, Canterbury Uni and other businesses and community recycling hubs. Drop off is free. If you don’t have transport, we advise keeping these in a container out of sun and heat out of the way of children, until someone is able to take these to one of the drop off spots for you.

If the batteries are damaged, rusted or leaking, take these to an Ecodrop only.

Best thing to do is to go Rechargable. It is a cost to get started but in the long run it saves money and the environment!

What do I do with a car battery?
Take to your nearest Ecodrop or Supercheap Auto, for free. Many mechanics will also take them for free.

What happens if I put batteries in the curbside bins?
Batteries can cause fires in the bins, trucks and at the sorting depo.

RED BIN - Rubbish trucks compact rubbish, to make more space in the truck.  This squashing action can causes parts of a lithium battery to mix with parts that aren’t designed to be in contact with each other. This can lead to a chemical reaction occurring. The battery starts increasingly overheating, until eventually it catches fire. If this doesn’t happen in the truck, it can also happen in the disposal pit. Fires in trucks and pits are very dangerous.

They also leak acid and on the off chance that someone ever has to handle that waste (due to future erosion, or even mining etc.) you’re potentially going to cause harm, and it will also be leaked into the landfill.

YELLOW BIN - If damaged lithium batteries go into in a recycling truck, they could start a fire in the paper and cardboard, or in the recycling machinery.  

GREEN BIN - Residents know not to put batteries in green bins – the toxic component of batteries need to be kept well away from soil.

The fire risk would be even greater in a food truck as the organics is naturally combusting as it’s transported/stored. As such, food waste trucks have to be emptied quickly and cannot be stored overnight etc. so batteries in there is a huge risk.
Would you want to eat food grown from compost that batteries have been processed in?

Other issues with disposing of batteries:

  • It is a waste of precious metals to place resources into landfill, when we have the ability to recycle them.
  • Batteries can leach toxic chemicals. 
  • Given how extremely hazardous button cell batteries are to children and wildlife, these tiny but hazardous items need to be carefully disposed of to ensure they don’t escape large receptacles like wheelie bins or trucks and into the environment.
  • When my property was flooded last year, I laughed at the irony that I was picking up the contents of my bins once the water had resided. Bins get blown over, tipped over, and that waste is then litter and has to be picked up by someone (hopefully).
  • Children and animals can die from ingesting those tiny silver batteries that look like treats to them.
  • They should only be stored safely and up high until they can be disposed of as well.

What are other hazardous substances that shouldn't go in the bins and what do I do with them instead?
All the following are FREE drop off options. None of the below can go in any of the kerbside bins, apart from the cooled and bagged ash or soaked fireworks (red bin only). 

Chemicals –  EcoDrop Recycling Centre  accept household  and garden chemicals (liquid and dry) EcoCentral - What we accept

Gas bottles, including camping canisters – Eco Drop Recycling Centre (everything from LPG cylinders, Butane canisters etc)

Fire extinguishers - Ecodrop Recycling Centre  Also,  “Wormald”  in Christchurch, take back their own fire extinguishers. If in good quality, they may be able to do a swap and go.

Paints, oils, solvents - Ecodrop Recycling Centres for paints, solvents and oil (both cooking oil, used oil and automotive liquids). Some paint shops also take back paint and/or used paint pails, for recycling like Dulux and Resene

For Cooking oil there are some alternatives; North canterbury chicken rescue take used cooking oil for treating scale on chicken’s legs, also some pig farmers add to pig food.

Soak - Completely submerge fireworks in a bucket of water. Allow to soak overnight.
Wrap – Double-wrap soaked fireworks in plastic wrap or plastic bags so they do not dry out.
Dispose - Place wrapped bags in the red bin.
Alternatively, you can drop these off at an EcoDrop recycling centre.

Ash from the fire only goes in the red bin, after it has been cooled for 5 days, and double bagged. Ash can contain heavy metals (particularly if treated wood has been burnt), which contaminates compost.

Cleaning products – Clean empty containers, that are a 1, 2 or 5 plastic, with lids removed, and between the size of a yogurt pottle and 3L container, can go into the recycling YELLOW bin. Chemicals need to be taken to the ECO Drop be neutralised. Best is to purchase eco-friendly products with no harmful chemicals.

Medicines – Don’t put in bin and don’t flush down the toilet.
Medications are too small and too hazardous to go into red wheelie bin (even if bagged), where the risk is they could get out into the environment eg a bin got tipped over. We also don’t want any of these kinds of concentrated chemicals going into a landfill without treatment as a hazardous waste first.

Full strength medications also cannot always be filtered out of waste water (ie from the toilet) properly and therefore, even once waste water is treated, and discharged into the sea, it could still contain things like hormone disruptors, which can harm aquatic wildlife.

Take these back to a pharmacy listed on the following link, they will dispose of them for free:

Other medical waste like RAT tests, dressings etc. should be bagged or disposed of inside its packaging into the RED bin.

Some Pharmacies are trialling take back of empty plastic pill packaging for recycling, ask your pharmacy what they can take. ​


Rubbish Talk