Standard Operating Procedure: Recycling Small Dry-Cell Batteries

The purpose of this standard operating procedure (SOP) is to establish processes for handling and recycling dry-cell rechargeable and nonrechargeable batteries through the Mail Recovery Center (MRC) in Atlanta, in accordance with Postal Service™ policies and universal waste-manage­ment regulations. Federal environmental regulations require that all universal waste be recycled. This SOP establishes methods for recycling small dry-cell batteries at all Postal Service operations and requires all employees to follow approved disposal and recycling procedures for used batteries.

Universal waste is a subcategory of hazardous waste that is subject to less restrictive environmental regulations, as long as it is recycled.

Certain types of batteries are considered hazardous because they contain heavy metals or corrosive electrolyte solutions. These include (but are not limited to) nickel-cad­mium (Ni-Cd), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), lithium (Li) or lithium ion (Li-ion), lithium polymer (Li-poly), silver oxide, and other small dry-cell batteries. When these batteries die, they must be handled as universal waste.

Exception: Lead-acid automotive batteries and sealed lead-acid emergency batteries are designated as universal waste but are not authorized for recycling under this instruction.

Common Postal Service Dry-Cell Batteries

The pictures here show common types of batteries:

n Ni-Cd and NiMH batteries (see Exhibits A and B on page 53) are used in cell phones, pagers, cameras, and power tools.

n Li-ion batteries (see Exhibit C, on page 53) are used in some cell phones, laptops, and cameras and in all Intelligent Mail Data Acquisition System (IMDAS) scanners .

n Lithium batteries are used in cameras and other elec­tronic devices that don’t require rechargeable batteries.

n Silver oxide batteries are used in watches, laptops, and other devices that require button-cell batteries (see Exhibit D on page 54).

Exhibit A, Power Tool Batteries (Ni-Cd and NiMH)

Exhibit A - Power Tool Batteries (Ni-Cd and NiMH)

Exhibit B, Ni-Cd Batteries in a Sealed Package

Exhibit B, Ni-Cd batteries in a Sealed Package

Exhibit C, IMDAS Lithium Ion Batteries

Exhibit C - IMDAS Lithium Ion Batteries

Exhibit D, Silver Oxide Button Batteries

Exhibit D - Silver Oxide button Batteries

Exhibit E, Alkaline/Dry Cell Batteries

Exhibit E - Alkaline/Dry Cell Batteries

Exhibit F, Emergency Lighting Small, Sealed Lead Acid Battery

Exhibit F - Emergency LIghting - Small, Sealed Lead Acid Battery

Exhibit G, Sealed Acid Batteries

Exhibit G, Sealed Acid Batteries

Rechargeable Batteries

Approximately 70 percent of the batteries used by the Postal Service are rechargeable, and a majority of these are Ni-Cd, Li-ion (secondary lithium), and sealed lead acid.

Management and Disposal of Used Batteries Less Than or Equal to 9 Volts


When an inoperable battery is removed from a piece of equipment, determine what type it is and follow the man­agement guidelines for disposing of it. There are three pri­mary types of batteries, each with specific handling requirements:

n Alkaline batteries (see Exhibit E on page 53) — con­sidered nonhazardous.

n Sealed lead-acid batteries (see Exhibits F and G on page 53) — not covered in this document and not authorized to be recycled under this instruction.

n All other dry-cell batteries — handle as universal waste.

Except for Li-ion IMDAS batteries, which have specific mailing requirements, alkaline batteries, and other univer­sal-waste, small dry-cell batteries should be recycled according to the following shipping procedures. (See Mail­ing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domes­tic Mail Manual (DMM®) for Li-ion-battery shipping instructions, including the requirement that no more than three Li-ion rechargeable batteries be mailed together.)


1. Select a small, sturdy cardboard box or ReadyPost® box if a used box is not available. (ReadyPost boxes can be obtained from the Post Office’s retail area.) If opting for a used box, remove or cover all barcodes.

2. Place up to 15 pounds of dry-cell batteries into the box, and pack them securely with paper. To prevent short circuits, tape all battery terminals so that they don’t have contact with one another.

3. Tape the box shut.

4. Print the following address on a G-10 label:

ATLANTA GA 30378-2400

5. Place the G-10 label on the box.

6. Place Label 127, Surface Transportation Only, on the box.

7. Write “PP” on all surfaces to indicate the box is being shipped by Parcel Post®.

8. Put your return address on the box and ship it.

Do not use Priority Tape or Priority Mail® Boxes.

Never ship damaged batteries! Batteries that are leak­ing, burned, cracked, melted, or otherwise damaged must be recycled locally.

Battery Disposal Record

Keep records of the batteries you send to the MRC. A sample recordkeeping table is shown below:


Battery Type

Number of Batteries

Date Sent to MRC

Other Information

















Contact Information

Contact the Office of Sustainability with any questions about onsite, universal waste-management procedures. Guidance on proper battery storage and labeling can be found on the Office of Sustainability website at logo