Paints, Batteries, and Fluids

Latex Paint

When purchasing paint remember to estimate the proper amount needed for the job. Buy only what you need. Always be sure to read the label, which contains important information regarding the product. The easiest way for you to dispose of leftover paint is to use it all up. Apply a second coat or touch-up areas which need improvement.

Leftover paint can be given to someone who has a need for the product. Contact neighbors, friends, relatives, churches, theatrical groups, high schools, recreation departments or community service organizations. Many of these groups are pleased to accept “free” paint. Make sure that any product you donate is in its original container with the label intact.

Latex paints can be left to dry by removing the lid and allowing the leftover product to dry. This should be done in an area which is away from children and animals. Allow the remaining paint to dry completely. Leave the lid off the can so that your waste hauler can see that the paint is hardened.


Oil-based Paint

Oil-based paints are ignitable and present particular hazards. These products should be disposed of as a household hazardous waste.

Paint thinner, turpentine, mineral spirits and solvents can often be reused. Let the used brush cleaners sit in a closed container until the particles settle out. Then pour off the clear liquid, which can be reused. Add an absorbent (i.e. cat litter) to the remaining residue and let it dry completely.


Battery Recycling

Household batteries contain metals such as: mercury, cadmium, lead, lithium, manganese dioxide, silver, copper, nickel and zinc. All of these metals pose significant environmental and health hazards. Discarded household batteries represent less than 1% by weight of our trash, however, they account for over half of all cadmium and most of all mercury found in the environment. When burned, batteries release pollutants into the air, and the resulting ash can be highly toxic. When landfilled, these pollutants can contaminate our groundwater.


Rechargeable Batteries

Rechargeable batteries can be used several times and are relatively inexpensive, but they do eventually wear out. These batteries will lose their charge over time so do not use them in low-use appliances, such as smoke detectors. Good uses include flashlights, radios, photo flashes, and handheld games.

Nickel-Cadmium rechargeable batteries (Ni-Cads) contain Cadmium, a metal toxic even in small quantities. These batteries are commonly used in portable electronics. In typical use, many portable electronics are only used for a short time before they are put back in their cradle for recharging. If the battery is only discharged slightly, it is being trained to only work for a short period and it will eventually loose most of its capacity. This is called the memory effect. To avoid the memory effect, and prolong the life of your battery many times, make sure to run it down once in awhile.

Nickel-Cadmium batteries should not be disposed of with the normal trash. While using rechargeable batteries is better overall for the environment than disposables, the metals should not end up in landfills when these batteries die. The new rechargeable alkaline batteries have the advantage that they contain no cadmium, which is a drawback to nickel-cadmium rechargeables. All rechargeable batteries can be recycled with your household batteries.


Dry-cell Batteries 

Because household batteries are made with toxic heavy metals such as zinc, manganese, lithium, nickel, cadmium, or mercury, they present a formidable waste disposal problem. The heavy metals are basic elements than can never be broken down or made non-toxic. When its useful life (often a few hours or less) is finished, batteries often end of in a landfill, where their metals can leach into the groundwater or in an incinerator where they add toxic metals to airborne emissions and ash.

Though not suitable for all purposes, rechargeable batteries can often substitute for disposables, with less ecological damage. Your choice of battery depends on your needs. For high-power devices such as tape players and toys, rechargeable batteries work well. For devices that might remain unused for long periods of time, such as flashlights, smoke alarms, and garage doors openers, disposable batteries are usually necessary, because rechargeable batteries lose about 1 percent of their capacity every day and self-discharge in about 90 days.

Even though rechargeable batteries are made from nickel and cadmium, which are toxic heavy metals, rechargeable batteries still reduce toxic wastes and save money. One rechargeable battery can replace up to 150 alkaline and even more zinc-carbon throw-a-ways, all of which contain heavy metals. Rechargeables save money too: General Electric calculates that someone who uses 75 AA disposable batteries a year would save $321.50 over a four year period by using rechargeable batteries.

Recycling household batteries keeps them out of the environment, while reducing our exposure to these dangerous heavy metals and reclaiming a valuable resource to be used in other products. Bring all batteries to the Recycle Depot.

Dry-cell Battery Recycling Process
Nickel – These are rechargeable or “secondary batteries.” The batteries are disassembled by shredding and/or hammer-mill. The electrolytes are neutralized; the heavy metals are recovered by pyrometallurgical processes; and the heavy metals are sold back into the manufacturing chain.

Lead (non-automotive) – These too are rechargeable batteries and are smaller than the auto type and are usually dry. Hammer mills break the batteries; the electrolyte is neutralized; and the lead is recovered through controlled temperature processes. The lead is refined for resale.

Mercuric Oxide, Silver Oxide, & Button Cells – Silver Oxide batteries contain mercury and are grouped in this category. It is important to be aware that the percentage of Mercuric Oxide batteries is decreasing as more states are adopting legislation to prohibit their sale. The batteries are shredded; the electrolytes are neutralized; and the heavy metals are recovered through a controlled temperature process. The remainder of the battery is non-hazardous and is interned into a double-lined environmental protection facility.

Lithium – Processes currently available:

  • A lithium salt mixture is recovered and shipped to another facility that recovers pure lithium carbonate from the impure mixture of lithium salts. The lithium carbonate is then sold back to the battery manufacturers.
  • The batteries are “deactivated” through a “hydro saline” process, which renders them non-hazardous. The remains are interned into a double lined environmental protection facility.

Alkaline / Zinc Carbon

  • Zero Added Mercury (<.025% by weight mercury): The batteries are shredded and given a slight acid bath to neutralize the electrolyte. This material is run through a rotary kiln to dry. At this point, carbon steel turnings are blended in at a ratio of 20-40 parts to 1 part of battery material. This blended material is pressed into bricks, which are magnetic. This material is transported to a steel mill for processing. In the furnace of the steel mill, the zinc from the battery is fumed off into a vacuum bag-house for recovery and resale as zinc oxide. The manganese dioxide becomes an alloy in the production of re-bar steel.
  • Unknown levels of Mercury (>.025% by weight mercury): These batteries were manufactured prior to July 1992. It’s assumed by now that the bulk of this type of battery has found its way into the solid waste stream. The recommended management for these batteries is mercury retort.

Automotive (Lead-Acid) Batteries

Two thirds of all lead in our waste comes from automotive batteries. An average battery weighs 36 pounds, half of which is recoverable lead that can be easily recycled. The 1990 Indiana General Assembly adopted a law that requires retailers to accept used batteries for every new one sold. The returned batteries must be sent to a reclamation center for recycling.

An auto battery converts chemical energy into the electrical energy needed to start your car. Unfortunately, the 80 million batteries that need replacement each year in the United States are a major environmental hazard.

A typical auto battery holds about one gallon of extremely corrosive sulfuric acid and about 19 pounds of lead. Lead, a toxic metal, can accumulate in the body and cause nervous disorders, reduced production of red blood cells, and impaired mental development in children. Only 80 percent of auto batteries are recycled, leaving another 16 million toxic cubes in the environment each year. Burying them in landfills causes lead and acid to leach into the groundwater. Burning them in incinerators either spews lead into the air or condenses it into toxic ash.

The advent of sealed car batteries, which prevent the sulfuric acid from spilling out easily, has made batteries much safer. Still burns and explosions can occur when batteries are dropped, opened improperly, or jump-started incorrectly.

When choosing a battery, look for a battery with a long warranty and longer life span. These batteries have warranties for 72 to 75 months (the standard is 30 to 60 months) and high cold-cranking power, which gives cars an extra boost on cold days. Although longer-life batteries are bigger and contain more lead and sulfuric acid, fewer must be manufactured and disposed.

Batteries often sit on store shelves for months or even years, losing performance power the whole time. Look for a battery manufactured no more than six months before you buy (ask the salesperson to decipher the product code stamped on each battery). You can prolong your batteries life by regular maintenance. Follow the instructions included with your battery.


Motor Oil, Oil Filters and Antifreeze

Nearly every household in the United States generates used motor oil. Automobiles produce over 600 million gallons of used oil annually. According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, over 200 million gallons of this oil is tossed into the trash, spilled onto the ground or poured down drains and sewers each year. The catastrophic Exxon Valdez spill was small compared to the amount of oil dumped into backyards, ditches and farm fields by do-it-yourself oil changers.

During use, motor oil comes in contact with bearings, seals and other engine parts which could add heavy metals and other contaminants considered hazardous to humans so improper disposal creates a real threat to human health. Used oil dumped onto the ground reduces soil productivity, contaminates groundwater and can poison fish and other wildlife. Just one gallon of used motor oil can ruin a million gallons of fresh water, an entire year’s supply of drinking water for 50 people!

Recycling used motor oil decreases our dependency on natural resources and conserves energy. Three times more energy is used to process crude oil than to re-refine used oil. By recycling, the U.S. can save thousands of barrels of oil per day. It takes just one gallon of used oil, compared with 42 gallons of crude oil, to produce the same 2 ½ quarts of lubricating oil. As for quality, today’s re-refined oil products meet or exceed the same stringent performance standards that apply to virgin oil products.

The following businesses in Marshall County may accept limited of amount of used oil as a public service. We recommend that you call ahead before bringing in your waste oil:

  • Recycle Depot, 1900 Walter Glaub Dr., Plymouth, (574) 935-8618
  • Oliver Ford Lincoln Mercury, 1001 E Jefferson, Plymouth, (574) 936-4066
  • Nationwise Auto Parts, 1707 N Michigan, Plymouth, (574) 936-7338
  • Martin Chevrolet, 1315 W Plymouth, Bremen, (574) 546-3333
  • Martin Chevrolet, 2303 North Oak Road, Plymouth, (574) 936-2115
  • Tatich’s T.M.T. Automotive, 1455 W Plymouth, Bremen, (574) 546-5122
  • Hammer’s Garage, 215 W Jefferson, Culver, (574) 842-4668
  • The Duke of Oil, 1505 N Michigan, Plymouth (574) 935-3853 (free car wash)

U.S. cars generate over 60 million gallons of used antifreeze each year. Most antifreeze contains the poisonous chemical ethylene glycol. Like motor oil, used antifreeze also collects hazardous contaminants from the engine during use. Antifreeze has a sweet taste which attracts children and pets. It may cause injury or death through ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption.


Mercury Devices

Mercury is a nerve toxin that can impair the way we see, hear, walk, and talk. When mercury reaches our lakes and rivers, bacteria converts it to methyl mercury, mercury’s most toxic form. Methyl mercury contaminates the food chain by accumulating in the tissues of fish and wildlife, and the humans who eat them. Only one gram of mercury in a lake can contaminate the fish population. In comparison, the average household thermostat contains at least three grams of mercury. This is a serious concern in Indiana as 99% of all fish sampled in Indiana have mercury in their tissue!

Fossil fuel (coal) combustion is the primary source of mercury in Indiana. However, there are several items in your households that may contain mercury as well. Care should be taken to ensure this mercury does not enter the environment when the item has reached the end of its useful life. We can minimize this risk by reducing our use of mercury containing products and by properly diverting mercury from landfills and incinerators. Recycling of mercury is a safe and reasonable solution. If you have any of the following items, please contact the Marshall County Solid Waste District for proper recycling or disposal methods:

  • Thermometers
  • Non-electric thermostats
  • Clothes irons (automatic shut-off)
  • Curling irons (automatic shut-off)
  • Mercurochrome and Merthiolate
  • Certain automotive headlamps (when headlights have blue tint)
  • Old marine paint manufactured before 1990
  • Old alkaline batteries not labeled “99% mercury free”
  • Old mercuric oxide batteries (found in children’s books that make music and other toys that light up or make noise)
  • Thermostats with characteristic “silver bulbs” – manometers and barometers
  • Fluorescent lamps, mercury vapor lamps, neon lamps, and metal halide lamps

Mercury switches and relays can be found in some chest freezers, sump umps, clothes washers, electric space heaters, and bilge pumps Mercury thermostat probes can be found in some gas ranges, ovens, clothes dryers, water heaters, furnaces, and space heaters.    The Recycle Depot accepts mercury devices for proper disposal.