You know that episode of Sex and the City-- I think it was in Season Six-- when Berger, Carrie's boy du jour, admits that he picks up playing cards he finds on the streets of New York in hopes of collecting an entire deck, then suddenly Carrie starts seeing these cards everywhere? I have an admission of my own, in that I do the same thing with discarded batteries.
While I am not looking to start a used battery collection, I am compelled to pick them up because of what will happen if they are left to the elements. Batteries contain hard metals and chemicals such as nickel, mercury, acid, alkaline, and cadmium and have no business in our landfills OR on the side of the road, as exposure to extreme temperatures and moisture causes the casings to crack and allows the chemicals to seep into the soil and groundwater.
I'd like to think that I look slightly less crazy than I would if I went around picking up, say, empty cans, nor am I infringing on those who try to profit from collecting and recycling other people's trash. Not only are batteries easier to pick up and carry than aluminum cans, they are also (at the time of this posting) easier for me to recycle. Household batteries can be recycled at any area Walgreens or Chicago Public Library for free, and considering that there's now a Walgreens on almost every corner, it couldn't be easier!
So if, after reading this, you start seeing discarded batteries everywhere, instead of cursing my screen name, at least consider picking up those little nuggets of encased toxins and recycling them. And when it comes time to replace some spent batteries, know that tossing them is the equivalent of replacing the ice cubes in your next glass of water with some frozen AAs-- gross! From what I can tell, household battery recycling is not yet available nationwide, but if our local program is an overwhelming success, maybe it will be.