Batteries contain toxic materials, such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and sulfuric acid that can leak and pose environmental risks when not properly stored or disposed. They also include commodities such as metal and lithium that can be recycled when handled properly. Batteries are difficult to manage because they require special handling to prepare for transportation. Lithium batteries have caused fires in garbage trucks and at landfills, scrap yards and material recycling facilities (MRFs).
A battery product stewardship program will improve human health and environmental concerns, increase recycling rates for batteries and improve MRF worker safety by improving management of this waste stream. In 2019, the Haz Waste Program's Policy and Planning team worked with the Northwest Product Stewardship Council and Zero Waste Washington to develop battery stewardship legislation. In May of 2023, Governor Inslee signed Senate Bill 5144 which creates a single program that safely collects all types of batteries. The bill begins the program by recycling small primary and rechargeable batteries starting January 1, 2027. Collection of additional battery sizes and types will roll out after January 2027.
Download our fact sheet to learn more about the benefits of proper battery management and disposal.