Leading the Charge on Battery Recycling

by Susan McVittie

Deceased batteries from your TV remote, smoke detector and many household appliances no longer need to go to the landfill where they can leach toxic chemicals into the ground. The BC Ministry of Environment has mandated a battery recycling pro­gram. In partnership with Call2Re­cycle, all household batteries under 11 pounds (five kg) – including re­chargeable, alkaline, cell phones and household appliances can be dropped off at nearly 1,500 collection locations across the province.

Call2Recycle, the only free bat­tery and cell phone collection program in North America, has collected more than 143,000 kilograms of rechargea­ble batteries in British Columbia since 1997. Once collected, the batteries are taken to sorting facilities where they are separated by type and shipped to processors where they are melted down “to harvest the most valuable metals or by-products the batteries have to offer,” said Carl Smith, CEO of Call2Recycle.

Lead goes to Quebec, lithium to Ontario, nickel to Pennsylvania and alkaline primary batteries that con­tain nickel-cadmium may find their way to France. “France is more ag­gressive with compliance on environ­mental laws than the US,” says Smith. “They’ve been recycling all batteries in the EU and French processors can handle huge volumes. Nothing goes into landfills – every ounce of what we get is recycled and 60-90% of bat­tery weight is used in a secondary product depending on its chemistry.”

The waste nickel and iron is sold to steel industries to create stainless steel, cadmium goes to make new Ni-Cad batteries and zinc, a by- product of alkaline, is used as a fertilizer nu­trient in the agricultural industry.

All industries that produce bat­teries must collect and ensure that the batteries will be recycled and the Ministry of Environment will track a battery manufacturer’s compliance with the recycling program by requir­ing the manufacturer to submit an an­nual performance report.

Besides BC, Ontario has also begun to collect all battery types for re­cycling. Discussions are underway in Manitoba and Quebec for regulatory proposals for an all consumer battery collection and recycling program. In all other provinces and territories, Call2Recycle only focuses on the col­lection of rechargeable batteries (less than 5 kg) and cell phones

Yet before you gleefully use up batteries, keep in mind that there are no environmentally friendly batter­ies. Using rechargeable ones, or solar powered is still your best bet.

To find a battery drop-off loca­tion near you or to learn how your company or organization can par­ticipate in the Call2Recycle program, visit call2recycle.ca and enter your postal code on their homepage or call 1-888-224-9764.

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[From WS November/December 2010]

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