Hearing aid batteries don’t have a very long shelf life and depending on the type of battery, and how frequently people use their devices, you could end up going through many batteries every year. These batteries contain toxins that are harmful to the quality of soil and water.
When they are thrown in the regular trash, there is a danger that these toxins will be released when garbage is burned or merely corrode over time in a landfill. Luckily, there are several methods people can use to recycle their hearing aid batteries, keeping these potentially dangerous away from our natural environment.
It is estimated that Americans throw away about 1.4 billion disposable hearing aid batteries every year, creating millions of tons of waste. These numbers will continue to rise as more and more people begin wearing hearing aids, unless they choose to recycle their batteries. Most hearing aids use zinc-air button cell batteries, and some also contain small amounts of mercuric oxide and silver. Over time, the outer casings of hearing aid batteries corrode as they sit in landfills. This releases the zinc and other metals contained in these devices into the soil and eventually into groundwater. Trash containing hearing aids batteries that is burned releases harmful smoke into the air. High levels of these toxins can lead to health problems in both animals and humans as water and the food chain become compromised. While the amount of toxins in a single battery may seem small, when taken together the sheer mass of these batteries ending up in landfills hurts the environment.
Recycling hearing aid batteries can also have a cumulative effect beyond just taking them out of landfills. When the batteries are recycled, the metals recovered can be used in multiple applications. This means that there is less need to mine to meet demand. Mining in and of itself has a negative effect on the environment due to the fuel burned by heavy machinery and the waste that is created by the mining process that leaches into the surrounding soil and water. The recovered plastics and metals from recycled hearing aid batteries can also be repurposed to make new batteries and cut down on additional production of those materials.
For people with hearing aids that support them, switching to rechargeable batteries also cuts down on potential waste reaching landfills. These batteries can be charged several times, cutting down not only waste but on costs to consumers. These batteries do also contain zinc and other metals, however, and they should also be recycled.
Some cities have their own battery recycling programs, and people who wear hearing aids should contact waste management officials to see if they accept hearing aid batteries. Some jewelry stores and larger retailers also accept hearing aid batteries recycling, and there are national organizations that offer hearing aid battery recycling. People who need additional guidance should talk to their audiologists about how to recycle their batteries. It’s a small step that can make a big difference.
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