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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Safe Management of Used Batteries

Used batteries are managed as Universal Waste under CA regulations and are prohibited from disposal in a sanitary landfill. While the requirements for management of Universal Waste are more relaxed than the requirements for hazardous waste, there are some basic guidelines that the Lab must follow. Throughout the Lab, there are 5-gallon plastic pails for the collection of used batteries. The contents of these battery collection pails are picked up by Waste Management on a regular basis. Do not dispose of used batteries in the regular Lab trash.

Safe collection of this waste stream is an important management requirement. Since certain types of batteries have a terminal configuration that can be a potential shorting hazard, all employees are reminded that if there is a potential for the battery terminals to short out, the terminals must be covered with tape to prevent shorting. A shorted battery can result in either heat build-up or sparking. This could cause a battery to burst or otherwise provide an ignition source for a fire. High voltage batteries could also pose an electrical shock hazard if not completely discharged. In addition, one of the off-site facility acceptance criteria for recycling, treatment, or disposal of batteries is taping of terminals that have a shorting potential.

While common dry cell batteries such as AAA, AA, C, and D cells would not be expected to pose a shorting hazard, the potential for shorting exists with 9-volt batteries, lantern batteries, disc type batteries (lithium or silver oxide), and any other battery where the terminals are in close proximity. Batteries with external wire leads attached can also pose a significant hazard. Please use the electrical tape attached to each collection bucket to cover all battery terminals that could short out during collection. If you are disposing of a battery with external wire leads, please be sure to remove the leads prior to placing the battery in a collection container. For more information on proper management of used batteries, please contact your Waste Management Generator Assistant.

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