Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Confused about battery recycling? Read this

The 'battery life' of your aging laptop is on life support. So, whenever you try to work outside the office, you're forced to hunt for one of the precious, few electric wall sockets available at your favorite Starbucks, Panera Bread or hotel lobby.

After much coffee-drinking, while you wait for that guy parked by the sole available outlet to finish editing his doctoral dissertation on the evils of modern technology, frustration drives you to concede that it's time to buy a new battery.

But what do you do with the old battery?

You remember reading somewhere that it's no longer environmentally necessary to recycle consumer batteries. So it's OK to throw yours in the trash, right?


A number of New Jersey county and municipal recycling programs decided in January, 2010 to eliminate the recycling of alkaline batteries. They are the relatively cheap batteries that power many toys and some cameras and other consumer products.

But the state still requires the recycling the more expensive rechargeable batteries--the ones that power your laptop, cellphone, cordless phone, digital camera, two-way radio, camcorder, remote control toys and portable power tools.

Why the change?

Modifications to federal regulations, combined with less hazardous battery components, mean the typical, "single-use' household AAA, AA, C, D and 9-volt batteries now fall below federal and state hazardous waste standards and should be tossed out in the trash, explains Larry Gindoff, solid waste coordinator for the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority.

But the use of materials (like nickel, cadmium and mercury) in the much more productive rechargeable batteries led New Jersey in the early 1990s to ban their disposal in normal trash collections to keep them out of landfills and waste incinerators. The same law required battery manufacturers to find a way to recycle them. This led to the establishment of a take-back program involving a network of participating retailers.

What types of rechargeable battery types can be recycled?

Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH), Lithium Ion (Li-ion), Nickel Zinc (Ni-Zn), and Small Sealed Lead Acid (Pb) weighing up to 11 lbs/5 kg per battery.

Looking to boost recycling numbers

The Association of New Jersey Household Hazardous Waste Coordinators (ANJHHWC) has announced a new partnership with Call2Recycle that's aimed at increasing rechargeable battery recycling by 15 percent in 2010.

ANJHHWC says that Call2Recycle is the only free rechargeable battery and cell phone collection program in North America. It collects them through a network of about 1700 retailers, businesses and public agencies in New Jersey alone.

You can learn where you can take your rechargeable batteries for free reclining by phoning Call2Recycle at 1-877-2-RECYCLE.

Or click on their Rechargeable Battery Recycling Locations web page. Here, you simply enter your zip code and up pops a number of the locations closest to you. I tried it and found outlets within several miles of my home and office, including Radio Shack, Sears Hardware, Best Buy, Staples and Lowe's.

Have you tried the program? Let us know what do you think. Or tell us about your other recycling experiences or recommendations. Use the comment box below. If one isn't visible, activate it by clicking on the tiny 'comment' link.

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