When to recycle 18650 batteries, and how to start a collection center in your vape shop. February 12 2015, 4 Comments

Call 2 Recycle Free Drop-off Box. One battery per bag.

Why should you recycle 18650 batteries?

Li-ion batteries are pushing humanity to think about the world differently. "Reuse rather than dispose" is the new motto. Li-ion batteries are the green gasoline behind solar farms and electric vehicles.

Even dead lithium ion batteries still contain useful materials like high-quality copper, aluminum, and rare-earth metals. It is much better for the environment to reuse these metals rather than let them sit at the bottom of a land-fill.

Next time you have a dead cell, bring them to the nearest drop-off center.

If you are a retailer, scroll down to find out how to set up a battery drop-off center in your shop.

When should you recycle your 18650 battery?

In the world of rechargeable batteries, the lithium ion type last longer than most. Most 18650 cells are rated for between 300 and 500 cycles. That means your cell can charge up to 4.2 volts, and discharge down to 2.5 - 2.8 volts, a maximum of 300 to 500 times without too much much loss in performance. When an 18650 cell nears the end of its life, the performance loss is sudden and fast.

Here is a look at the typical cycle life of the Panasonic NCR18650 series of batteries:

From Industrial Panasonic NCR-18650 Information Sheet

It is generally thought of as best practice, if you do not dip below 3 volts. A few people will not go below 3.5 volts (or about 40% of the battery's total capacity).

Note: If your voltage dips too low (under 2.5V) it may lock and prevent further use.

Some other signs to know your battery may be nearing the end of its life:

  • Its self-discharge rate is high. You find yourself recharging the cell in the morning because it lost voltage overnight.
  • It gets noticeably hot when charging or discharging.
  • It has been used often for over two years.
  • Can only hold <80% of its rated capacity.

Anything that stresses your batteries will negatively alter their chemistry causing their lifespan to shorten:

  • Continuously discharging at unrated amperage (pulse rating instead of continuous discharge rating).
  • Over-charging or under-charging.
  • Charging in a temperature that is freezing.

An 18650 cell is thought to be dead when:

  • It won't hold a charge.

High-pulse discharge cycle life is shorter

It is also worth mentioning to those using their 18650 for vaporizers, that high pulse discharges will shorten your battery's lifespan. Let's take a closer look at the Samsung 25R battery's cycle life.

From the Samsung 18650-25R Introduction Sheet


The 25R was charged and discharged at 20A about 150 times until its capacity lost 500mAh (reached 2000mAh from 2500mAh).

From the Samsung 18650-25R Introduction Sheet


Rather than discharge the 25R at a continuous 20A, this tests high pulses up to 65A at 1 second. This is the maximum these cells can discharge. Note how it takes only 50 cycles for these cells to lose 500mAh, as compared to 150 cycle in the test above.

Where can you recycle them?

Each country has their own way of handling recycled li-ion batteries.

United States and Canada

Recycle your old li-ion batteries

From Wikipedia:

The rechargeable battery industry has formed the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), which operates a free battery recycling program called Call2Recycle throughout the United States and Canada. RBRC provides businesses with prepaid shipping containers for rechargeable batteries of all types while consumers can drop off batteries at numerous participating collection centers. It claims that no component of any recycled battery eventually reaches a landfill.

Call 2 Recycle

If you want to recycle lithium ion batteries, the best place to do it is with Call 2 Recycle.

Locator Tool: Use this tool to find Call 2 Recycle centers near you.

Directory: Or browse their directory of locations.

Become a Collection Site

Call 2 Recycle Free Drop-off Box. A look at the box's features. 

Do you own a retail shop or know someone who does? Anyone that buys 18650 batteries could use a place to collect and recycle their dead cells. There are obvious environmental advantages, but also it is simply good for business.

Advantages for a Vape Shop

Brand Identity. Show your customers that you care about the environment, and are not just trying to make money. It's important to show that your brand stands behind a clean, green way of life.

Advertisement. If you are the only collection center in town, environmentally conscious consumers will only come to your establishment, and they're likely to tell their friends.

Retention. Now they have an extra reason to come to your shop when their battery dies.

100% Free. This service is totally free for you to use.

How to become a collection site for 18650 batteries

Simply submit a Participation Inquiry on Call 2 Recyles website and they will contact you with more information.

Everything you need to know about becoming a collection center

Call 2 Recycle 101 tutorial video for collection centers.


From Wikipedia:

"In April 2004 the Japan Portable Rechargeable Battery Recycling Center (JBRC) was created to handle and promote battery recycling throughout Japan. They provide battery recycling containers to shops and other collection points."

For businesses, the JBRC will collect the batteries free of charge. You have to go to their website and register.




United Kingdom

From Wikipedia:

"From 1 February 2010 batteries can be recycled anywhere the Be Positive sign appears. Shops and online retailers that sell more than 32 kilograms of batteries a year must offer facilities to recycle batteries. This is equivalent to one pack of four AA batteries a day. Shops which sell this amount must by law provide recycling facilities as of 1 February 2010."


It seems the European Recycling Platform is the best choice for vape shops in the UK. For larger shops, they may even be required by law to offer a recycling service. Request a free collection box.

Rest of the world

Feel free to update me with information on your country's li-ion recycling program and I will update this blog-post.

Ask your friendly vape shop if they will start a recycling program

If you don't have anywhere to dispose of your 18650 batteries, let your local vape shop know! Let them know the environmental benefits, and that it is 100% free for them to get started.

Link them to this blog post, or have them call Call 2 Recycle (US: 877.723.1297, Canada: 888.224.9764) and help spread the word!