North Americans love technology — and energy-sucking technology loves batteries. Luckily, consumers are getting better at recycling them.
14 million pounds of batteries were collected in the United States and Canada in 2016, marking a 20-year consecutive increase, according to Call2Recycle, a recycling organization founded in 1994 by five battery companies that wanted to address the disposal of rechargeable batteries.
This translates into 129 million pounds of recyclable material that bypassed landfills for over two decades.
“Virtually all battery chemistries can be recycled,” said Call2Recycle CEO Carl Smith in an interview with Lady Freethinker. “Including your commonly used alkaline primary (types AA, AAA, C, D, etc.), and lithium ion rechargeable batteries, which are often found in portable electronics.”
The success of the recycling program is partially due to the increasingly convenient locations of battery collection spots. Approximately 88 percent of Americans and Canadians live within 10 miles of one of Call2Recycles drop-off collection locations that are often partnered with retail stores like Radio Shack, Best Buy, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Staples.
Once collected, the batteries are sent to various processing centers which break down the batteries and turn the recovered material into new products such as silverware, pots and pans, and new batteries. Cell phones are refurbished or recycled and proceeds are used to fund the program.
Metals recovered from recycled batteries are valuable for manufacturing; however, they can also be harmful to the environment.
“A small number of battery chemistries—namely nickel cadmium and small sealed lead acid—contain metals that can be hazardous to human health,” Smith said. “Diverting these chemicals from the normal waste stream ensures that they don’t end up in landfills where they can potentially leachate into the water supply.”
Not only does proper disposal of batteries keep heavy metals out of the environment it also reduces the need to mine natural resources.
To find out more about battery recycling or to find a drop-off location, visit www.call2recycle.org.