How is this possible?
One of the keys of engineering is balancing cost with result. For primary batteries, it must be understood that the cost of recycling will always exceed the cost of the resulting by-product, or commodity.
The value of the recycling process is the usefulness of the by-product, in this case, zinc and manganese. Both these minerals must be mined. When thoroughly recycled, the manganese can be used again in battery creation, and the zinc can be sold to the zinc industry who sells it to manufacturers and industry. Manufacturers are using recycled materials instead of newly mined minerals.
What can you do with the yield of the battery?
Some use the cleaned and recycled components to enrich soil, as a fertilizer. (Check out your vitamins - you need manganese, zinc and potassium, just like the batteries.)
Others use the by-products to add to slag or concrete.
We think the optimal recycling method purifies the manganese enough to be used in the creation of more batteries, and the zinc purified enough to go back into industry (zinc is good for many applications).
Collecting batteries starts in your own home. Getting them to a recycling facility has been the challenge for individuals. On the small scale, you can pay for your own collecting bin from one of the two recycling facilities in the U.S.
Few people want to pay for their own battery recycling. Ideally, batteries would be collected by an organization proficient at collecting and delivering.
Who is going to collect these on a regular basis? What kind of vehicle will they use? Will they combine pickups with other waste or recycling? Will there be costs for the appropriate universal waste license? How many miles will they travel from pickup to recycling facility?
Part 1: How do you get your batteries to a recycling location?
Drive to a specific recycling location
Take them to a store or workplace you regularly visit
Have them picked up curbside
or a combination of all of the above?
Part 2: How do the collected waste batteries get to the recycling facility?
From how many sites
to a recycling facility how far away?
Education & Outreach
Here are some of our research sources:
technical papers found in sources such as the "Journal of Power Sources" and "Waste Management"
webinars, several from the Product Stewardship Institute
discussions with solid waste professionals both in government and private sectors
classes such as the "Blue Economy" taught at Buffalo State, and "Water Academy" presented by Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.
We take what we have learned and share it with you.
We do this through presentations to:
high school students.
We will be posting a blog in which we share information we hope you find interesting and maybe even exciting!
We also love chatting with the public at various festivals and events.
The "Amazing Battery Chute" is used at public festivals to teach about where batteries go, and give people a chance to recycle their batteries.
For such a seemingly simple idea -- "Hey, let's recycle our batteries!" -- it is filled with complexities. As a citizen-originated endeavor, we research all that we can, and then find opportunities to share that information with you.
Unlike some recycling, alkaline batteries do not produce a commodity that will afford the recycling process. For example, aluminum will fetch a high enough price that recyclers can cover the cost of the processing and recycling of it.
Not so for alkaline batteries. Their main commodities are manganese and zinc. The price of these minerals does not cover the cost of the recycling process.
So who will pay for the recycling? Will it be the consumer or the producer?
Extended Producer Responsibility
What if each producer or manufacturer continued their responsibility for a product beyond the consumer's use of it? What if they had to consider how their product would join the waste stream? This means they might make a product that is set up for recycling; perhaps with a color code to ease sorting, or making it easy to break down. And perhaps they'd pay for the recycling, too.
In 2015, NYS Senator Avella, 11th Senate District, proposed New York's first alkaline battery recycling bill, a Product Stewardship Program for Primary Batteries, Senate Bill 4522. The Senator's motivation? Then eleven-year old Eliot Seol had written a passionate letter to him. That's a reminder to all of you to write to your legislators! It matters!
The bill didn't get too far in 2015. But in 2016, Assemblyman Englebright took it up and added 18 sponsors to the bill! Assembly bill 9921 became the "Same As" the Senate bill, and went through about five renditions. That bill never made it to either house's Environmental Conservation Committee.
So far in 2017, the bill has been introduced for 2017-18 by Senators Avella, Carlucci and Latimer. It is the same as 2016's 4522-D, but this year it is NYS Senate Bill #1448. The same as bill was introduced as A06280 by Assemblyman Englebright in March, 2017, and has passed the Environmental Conservation committee.
Wouldn't it be great if they wrote a bill for product stewardship that collected ALL household batteries, both rechargeable and primary, together?
Could this bill get us there?
This bill would mean there could be as few as 62 collection bins in the entire state of New York. With a little calculating comparing population and geographic size to successful battery collections in other countries (Belgium, Canada, Switzerland), New York needs at least 5,000 collection bins. Recycling batteries should be convenient.
This bill states that the batteries should be recycled "to the extent economically and technically feasible." Shouldn't they be recycled to be most environmentally sound? And perhaps they should be recycled in or near New York State, thus decreasing the extent of transportation. Recycling batteries should be environmentally favorable.
This bill could mean that few citizens even know about the bill. Without measurable results in place for proving that education and outreach efforts are effective, the weakest of mention could pass for "education and outreach" and that would be okay within this bill. Recycling batteries should be community friendly.