Monday, November 16, 2009

Do You Recycle Batteries?

I'm so confused! I read an article the other day about battery recycling that threw everything I had ever heard about it out the window. To recycle or not to recycle. Which is it?

The article said that rechargeable batteries and button cell batteries can and should be recycled. All other single use batteries? These can be tossed in a landfill. Confused? Me too! This article was from a very reliable source and after reading it, I decided to do some research on battery recycling because this new information goes against everything I know about it.

Have you ever heard of the Battery Act of 1996? I wasn't even born when this was signed into law, so that is my excuse for having never heard of it. Okay, that's really no excuse, is it? I mean, Mom wasn't around for the Revolutionary War but she's heard of and is familiar with it.

The purpose of the Battery Act was twofold: phase out the use of mercury in batteries, and provide for the efficient and cost-effective collection and recycling or proper disposal of used nickel cadmium (NiCad) batteries, small sealed lead-acid (SSLA) batteries, and certain other regulated batteries. Rechargeable batteries and SSLA batteries contain toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, and lead that are not harmful to humans while the batteries are being used but can cause seriuous harm if not properly disposed. If these batteries end up a landfill, the heavy metals can slowly leach into the soil and water. Yuk! If burned, the heavy metals will end up in air. This is not good either.

So what about single use batteries? Single use batteries such as AAA, AA, A, C & D no longer contain mercury due to the Battery Act, so they are not toxic by themselves. They do contain a metal (steel) casing, so they can technically be recycled with scrap metal, but they must be completely dead (fully discharged) prior to recycling. So we are suppose to recycle them right? Yes, according to the EPA's website that said several reclamation companies now process these batteries.

After the batteries have been collected, they are shredded and neutralized in an acid bath. The material is then run through a kiln to be dried and pressed into magnetic bricks, which are then transported to a steel mill for processing. At the steel mill, they are placed in the furnace where zinc is fumed off into a vacuum baghouse, recovered, and sold as zinc-oxide. The manganese dioxide is then used to in the production of re-bar steel.

But who are these reclamation companies and where are their drop-off locations? Through my research I only found companies that charge a fee for a battery shipping container plus a fee for the shipping itself. Mom used to deposit her batteries in the zoo's collection containers, but I have no idea what happened to them after Mom dropped them off. I am going to email the zoo to find out who recycles the batteries.

Button batteries can be taken back by electronics retailers, hearing aid stores, hospitals, jewelers, or pharmacies for recycling. That's good news. If you have rechargeable batteries, you can search Call2Recycle to find a recycling location near you. Call2Recycle is the only free rechargeable battery and cell phone collection program in North America. Since 1994, Call2Recycle has diverted 50 million pounds of rechargeable batteries from landfills and established a network of 30,000 recycling drop-off points.

The EPA estimates that on average each person in the U.S. discards eight single use batteries per year. A great alternative is to purchase rechargeable batteries and a recharger. Rechargeables last longer, reduce waste, save money, can be recycled, etc. The list just goes on. They are truly better for the environment and they are much better than they used to be years ago.

I'm still a little confused about single use battery disposal because some research I found claimed that single use batteries are not even recycled despite recycling efforts. This is due in large part because the process of recycling is cost prohibitive for the small amount of recoverable material available in each battery. I am going to do more research on this because I don't want to put anything in a landfill that can be recycled. If you have any information about their disposal, please leave it in your comments. All of us want to do the right thing, so we must all work together to get to the bottom of this.


dw said...

Wow, I never realized batteries could be so confusing! But you've got me confused too about those single use batteries. I don't use a whole lot of batteries -- probably just in the remotes and in the digital readout of the exercise bike and stepper -- and they haven't worn out in ages. I'll be interested in any more info you or someone else can come up with on this. Btw, I was LOL at your comment, Stubby, about your mom not being around for the Revolutionary War. Heeeeeeeeee!

Pearl said...

Oh, I have no useful information! I am just as confused as you are now, Stubby!

I know we'll get to the bottom of this...

Melissa and Emmitt said...

hi stubby!
oh i know! this is so confusing! we have a batteries plus store next to my gym and they put a recycle bucket there so we can drop off all of our used batteries.
i hope i am disposing of them correctly!


Paula - PAPugMom said...

It is confusing. But well worth find out more about to do the right thing.

Tweedles -- that's me said...

Hi Stubby
We have been confused about this very subject too.
We go through many batteries- even though the rechargable do last longer.
I hope someone comes to a conclusion about this.

Dana Orsborn said...

Hi Stubby!

That is pretty confusing
and conflicting. Penny and I
used to recycle our batteries
when we lived in the Bay Area,
but we can't find any recycling
centers here in Las Vegas. We'll
have to find out more about this.

Have a great week!

-Dana & Penny

Stubby said...

Hi dw! I'm sorry that I've confused you, but I'm working on finding answers to this battery recycling mystery.

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Pearly Poo! I know this is so confusing and while you may not useful information about battery recycling, you have lots of useful information about other stuff.

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Melissa & Emmitt! I'm glad that you take your used batteries to a battery store. Could you ask them what they do with the batteries when the bucket gets filled - like where they send them and what exactly happens to them?

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Paula! It is confusing and we must find out because we don't want toxins in our soil and water. There is enough bad stuff out there already without adding more.

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Tweedles! Everyone is just as confused as I am. I hope that even though we are confused, this issue is making everyone think about proper waste disposal.

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Dana & Penny! Thanks for stopping by. I love making new friends and I'm heading over to check out your blog right now.

I'm glad you used to recycle your batteries in Bay Area and I'm sure there's a place to recycle them in Las Vegas. Please look into it so that you can do the right thing.

Stubby xoxo

Apollo said...

I have the answer, Stubby! My Mommy is an Environmental, Health & Safety Specialist at IU. Their department is in charge of disposing all hazardous wastes (chemicals/radioactive/biological/mercury/PCB/batteries). Mommy said that yes, SSLA batteries are considered hazardous wastes and CANNOT be disposed of in a regular landfill. Now single-use batteries are not hazardous, so CAN be disposed of in a regular landfill. However, some places do recycle (and for free). What it comes down to is that you can throw your single use batteries in the trash, and you won't be hurting the environment. But if you want to recycle them, you can. Interstate Batteries is one such place that will recycle them. At Mommy's work all the batteries they collect (through 5 gal buckets throughout campus), they ship to Interstate Batteries to be recycled. I hope this helps!

Stubby said...

Hi Apollo! Thanks for the info. I think you've cleared up some things and now I can rest better knowing what I shouldn't and shouldn't be recycling.

Stubby xoxo