Batteries can contain mercury, cadmium and lead – substances that cause great harm if released into the environment.

Batteries can contain mercury, cadmium and lead – substances that cause great harm if released into the environment.

Loose small batteries are used in items such as flashlights, clocks, remote controls and cameras. Built-in batteries can be found in items such as electric toothbrushes, computers, toys and tools.

Loose small batteries should be disposed of in a battery bin or similar container. Products with a built-in battery are disposed of together with other e-waste, usually at a municipal recycling centre. Car batteries are disposed of at a municipal recycling centre or similar collection point, or handed in at a place that sells car batteries.

Keep in mind that many things that move, flash or make noises are powered by batteries – even if you cannot see them.

Battery basics

Are there rechargeable alkaline batteries? What kind of battery is in a lawnmower? And what does it matter if there are some old batteries at home collecting dust in a drawer? Everything you have wanted to know about batteries but were afraid to ask can be found below.

Disposable and rechargeable batteries

Let’s start at the beginning. Batteries are usually divided into two different groups. The disposable variety are the “normal” loose batteries that you put in and take out of flashlights, remote controls, alarm clocks and toys. When they run out of power, you take them to the battery bin. 

Rechargeable batteries are the ones in your smartphone, tablet, electric toothbrush, drill or camera, for example. Any gadget that can be recharged, simply put. When the battery can no longer be recharged (yup, that will eventually happen), the whole thing is considered e-waste and should be taken to a collection point or recycling centre.

So what are the different types of batteries?


Alkaline batteries (which have replaced the old zinc-carbon batteries) are the common disposable batteries you put in things like smoke detectors, remote controls and toys. They can be round, square or rod-shaped, but a common denominator is that they cannot be recharged.

Since 2009, all alkaline batteries are recycled, especially the metal casing around them. The content (which consists of carbon) is called the “black mass”. A lot of research is currently being conducted on how to recycle it. Until this is solved, the content is taken care of and stored safely.


Let’s move on to lithium batteries. If you are very interested in batteries, we can tell you that there are several types of lithium batteries, but there are mainly three types that you encounter in everyday life. And if that was not complicated enough, they can be divided into two groups.

The first group is called primary lithium batteries and cannot be recharged. They are very small and rare and can be found in watches, computers and toys. Because they are so small, they are quite difficult to recycle. For this reason, they are made into new energy instead.

The second group of lithium batteries (made up of lithium-ion and lithium-polymer if you really want to impress people with your knowledge) are found in modern laptops, phones, games, cameras – in short, most things fun and wireless. It is the best type of battery on the market today in terms of both power and the environment. As much as 90 percent of the most common lithium batteries are recyclable.


Although they are most common in cars, lead-acid batteries are also found in some gardening equipment and mopeds. Lead is a toxic heavy metal, so it is especially important to recycle your large batteries. That way, the lead can be disposed of safely.

Lead-acid batteries can be taken to a recycling centre. Car batteries (which also contain corrosive acid) can also be turned in to a petrol station when you change your battery. And, the beauty of it all is that up to 98 percent of the contents of a car battery can be used again – as new batteries and as energy!


Batteries containing the heavy metal mercury are mainly found in some button cell batteries. They are round and small, and can be found in everything from watches to singing birthday candles and remote controls. Mercury is so toxic that Swedish authorities have decided to phase mercury batteries out of the battery market. When you recycle your mercury batteries, the heavy metal is sorted out and stored so that it does not get back into the environment. That is why it is particularly important to recycle your button cell batteries.

P.S. Many new button cell batteries do not contain mercury. But to be on the safe side, you can make a habit of taking gadgets containing small and round batteries to recycling more quickly.


Cadmium batteries (a.k.a. nickel-cadmium batteries) contain the dangerous heavy metal cadmium. Fortunately, they are not very common today. This is because an environmental tax has been imposed on cadmium batteries, making them more expensive for manufacturers to put in their gadgets than other more environmentally-friendly battery types. Another reason is that more powerful batteries have come onto the market. One example is lithium batteries.

BUT cadmium batteries can still turn up in older devices, like old computers, phones and tools. Another reason to take your old brick mobile to the recycling centre or collection point.

P.S. Cadmium batteries are the source of the myth that you always have to discharge your battery before recharging it. But modern batteries (like the ones in your smartphone) can be recharged at any time without putting wear on the battery!


When cadmium batteries stopped being used, a replacement called nickel metal hydride batteries came along. You may recognise them most as the rod-shaped batteries that look like ordinary alkaline batteries, but which you can plug into a charger.

Nickel metal hydride batteries contain no heavy metals, but of course they also go straight to the battery bin or recycling centre when they cannot be recharged. They are up to 90 percent recyclable.

Last updated: 2022-04-26