Connecticut charging up battery recycling efforts

By PAUL SINGLEY
The Republican-American

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut residents have approximately 3.7 million alkaline and rechargeable batteries that have reached the end of their lifespans.

An overwhelming majority of those dead batteries won’t get recycled _ they will be tossed in the trash.

That could change soon. Connecticut is charging up to become the first state in the nation to adopt a comprehensive battery recycling bill. While a few other states, such as Vermont, have recycling laws for single-use batteries, Connecticut could be the first to produce a law involving both single-use alkaline batteries and rechargeable batteries.

“This increases recycling, it removes items from the waste stream and it creates jobs around recovery of the material,” said Tom Metzner, environmental analyst for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Connecticut environmental officials are working with battery manufacturers to come up with a bill that will be introduced in the 2015 legislative session. Connecticut and the battery industry hope it will be a model for the rest of the country.

The bill would cover several varieties of batteries, including those made of alkaline, zinc carbon, lithium primary silver oxide and zinc air, and batteries used for computers, standard alkaline batteries, rechargeable batteries, watch batteries, cell phone batteries and others. Car batteries will not be included _ Connecticut already has a car battery disposal program.

The details for how batteries will be recycled are still being worked out. For example, battery users could bring them to a store that has a recycling drop-off site or they may be asked to put them in their curbside recycling bins. A bill recently passed for single use batteries in Vermont states that companies selling batteries must come up with a plan for how they will implement and oversee a convenient collection program.

Metzner said he believes Connecticut is a good fit for the battery bill because of its success as the first state to pass a mattress recycling law and the third state to create a paint recycling law. While Metzner believes the battery law will eventually create jobs, he said it may take a while _ as other states in the region adopt similar bills, regional recovery and processing centers could be developed.

Scott Cassel, chief executive officer of the Product Stewardship Institute headquartered in Boston, partners with several battery companies behind the law, including Energizer, Duracell, Panasonic and the Rechargeable Battery Association. He said there are currently voluntary battery-recycling programs that some participate in and help finance. However, not every company participates, giving those that do an added incentive to push for a level playing field.

Right now, he said, only about 10 to 15 percent of the batteries that can be recycled are actually being recycled, he said.

“The manufacturers understand that they have a responsibility to step up to the plate and not only sell the product, but they also have a responsibility to manage it properly,” he said.

He said there are very noticeable economic and environmental benefits to recycling batteries. But there are others that people might not think of.

“If you look at what it takes to make a battery, and all of the metals that have to be mined and processed and manufactured,” he said. “There are many steps that you can avoid when you recycle something such as a battery.”ID-100285940

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