The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Challenge

Carl Smith, CEO and president of Call2Recycle explains some of the market factors impacting the collection and recycling of rechargeable batteries.

Recycling Collection & Transport Markets & Policy

In the recent ‘Pathfinder: The Road to More Effective EPR in the U.S.’ published in the September/October Recycling Special Edition of WMW, Jennifer Nash and Christopher Bosso took a look at rechargeable batteries as one of four extended producer responsibility (EPR) models and examined their effectiveness through collection rates.

Carl Smith, CEO and president of Call2Recycle explains some of the market factors impacting the collection and recycling of rechargeable batteries...

While we appreciate that the article took an interest in Call2Recycle (formerly Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation) and rechargeable battery recycling, there are some key market factors that play into the low collection rates, including the following:

Products in Products: Almost 90% of rechargeable batteries are sold with or in the products that they power, and are often built-in and not designed to be removed.

Some jurisdictions, such as New York, Ontario and Quebec, make battery manufacturers responsible for the collection of batteries within products that otherwise are not subject to their own mandates, such as tablets, cordless shavers or mp3 players.

Recent European data indicates that Lithium Ion batteries are not being separately returned for recycling but are being disposed of via the “host” products that they power

Longevity of Battery: a battery’s life depends on the frequency of use. Therefore, a construction worker may need to replace the rechargeable battery in their cordless tools more frequently than the average DIY homeowner.
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For instance, according to a recent Battery Association of Japan (BAJ) study, the average life of a Nickel Cadmium power tool battery is almost 10 years.

Unlike paper, plastic and glass which may be consumed immediately, rechargeable batteries do not have the same consumption rate.Therefore, a considerable amount of time may pass between when a battery enters the market and when it needs to be disposed and recycled

Hoarding remains a challenge: research has shown that consumers often hold onto electronic products well after they’ve stopped using them - otherwise known as hoarding.

In the same BAJ study, they found that on average, products are hoarded twice as long as their lifecycle. When the products have a perceived high value, consumers are less likely to dispose of the product and/or battery. So, public education continues to be at the core of Call2Recycle’s efforts.

We agree that our actual collection numbers are “low by any means”; however, we still consider our efforts to have been successful thus far with over 75 million pounds of batteries collected since our inception.

We recognise that there is always much more work to be done. In order to further battery recycling efforts, addressing the batteries in products and increasing consumer awareness will continue to be the foundation of our efforts.

Carl Smith, CEO & President, Call2Recycle

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