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Earth Friendly: Recycle Your Batteries

Nov. 18, 2010 at 5:18 a.m.

Meridith Byrd

By Meridith Byrd

Take a quick glance around your home and you will likely find a number of things that run on batteries, such as cordless or cell phones, laptops, power tools, clocks, remote controls and toys. The EPA estimates that Americans buy almost 3 billion dry cell batteries (i.e. most household batteries) each year and that about 2.5 billion of those get thrown away.

However, batteries should not be tossed into the trash or burned, as they contain heavy metals such as lead, nickel and cadmium that can potentially contaminate the water or soil. A better solution is to set aside a bag or box to collect your household batteries and take them to be recycled.

Here in Victoria, there are a few options for recycling your batteries, including the city's Huvar Street Recycling Center and Interstate Batteries. Interstate Batteries accepts all types of batteries for recycling; the company has been recycling batteries for over 50 years. As Jim Eades, Interstate's director of franchise development, proudly claims, "We were green before it was cool to be green."

Interstate does accept household batteries, such as AAA, AA, C, D and 9-volt. These and other batteries are sent off to The Big Green Box, a California company that describes itself as "a national program that offers companies, consumers, municipalities, and other generators a low cost and easy way to recycle their batteries and portable electronic devices."

Huvar Recycling Center and Interstate Batteries both accept the rechargeable batteries used in products like cell phones and power tools. Both send the batteries they collect to Call 2 Recycle in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, a nonprofit recycler funded by battery manufacturers. Metals reclaimed from batteries go into new batteries and stainless steel products. Any parts that cannot be reused are disposed of responsibly.

Lead-acid batteries, such as automobile batteries, can also be taken to either location. Eades claims that Interstate recycled over 1 billion pounds of lead-acid batteries last year. "We recycle more car batteries than we sell," he explains. As part of the process, plastic recovered from these batteries will be incorporated into new products and the lead will be reused in new batteries. A typical lead-acid battery contains 60 to 80 percent recycled lead and plastic, according to the EPA.

Recycling batteries, rather than putting them in your household trash can help reduce the amount of potential contaminants in the environment. It also means less virgin material going into the making of new products. It does not cost consumers anything to recycle batteries, so rather than tossing old ones into the garbage, take them to be recycled instead.

Meridith Byrd is a marine biologist and invites readers to contact her at meridith.byrd@gmail.com.

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