Viewpoints

Three ways to boost municipal battery recycling programs

By Linda Gabor

During the past two decades, municipalities, big and small, have launched or expanded their rechargeable battery recycling programs. Some cities want to reduce the trash they haul to their landfill. Others want to make sure the metals found in some batteries don’t leach into the soil and groundwater.

Whatever the motivation, recycling rechargeable batteries is smart because it helps the environment by decreasing the materials that go into the landfill. Instead, recycled materials can be repurposed into new materials. 

One of the biggest challenges any municipal program discovers is changing behavior and inspiring residents to take the time to recycle. Here are three tips, gathered from Call2Recycle partners across North America, to help municipalities or government agencies improve awareness of its battery recycling programs.

Tip 1: Continuously educate the consumer.

Successful programs rely on communication campaigns that continuously educate both residents and businesses about what batteries can be recycled, where they can be recycled and why they should be recycled. Recycling behavior is based on awareness, accessibility and convenience.  Most consumers want to do the right thing, but many don’t know how.  Ongoing communications can go a long way to help. 

  • Sioux Falls, ND, uses social media daily to aggressively promote recycling of a variety of items, including batteries. Their tweets reach an audience of all ages, but especially tap into a younger generation that uses social platforms instead of more traditional mediums. They also provide a sleek downloadable brochure that contains everything residents need to know about battery recycling in the city.  
  • Both the City of New York and Marion County, OR, use their websites to provide detailed information to the general public on how to recycle a wide variety of items.  Some cities include a separate page on household hazardous waste with batteries as a separate category.
  • Marion County Environmental Services hosts a local radio show, Waste Matters, every other week. The staff educates residents on issues surrounding waste and how to prevent it.
  • In Canada, battery recycling education begins at an early age with contests such as Earth Day Canada’s EcoKids Battery Hero Art Contest, Earth Rangers’ Battery Blitz Mission and the BC Green Games.  Additionally, Earth Day Canada offers an EcoKids website for teachers that includes an age-appropriate curriculum on batteries and recycling.
  • The Delaware Solid Waste Authority opened an Environmental Education Building in New Castle, DE, so residents and schoolchildren can see how waste is collected, processed and recycled. A Call2Recycle kiosk features a video on recycling rechargeable batteries.

Tip 2: Boost visibility with a special promotion or event.  

A special event or promotion can grab attention and inspire a previously untapped section of a community to take action.

  • During the holiday and summer seasons, Tulsa’s Metropolitan Environmental Trust relies on humorous ads on the radio, in print, on billboards or in videos, to remind people to buy rechargeable batteries when purchasing a battery-powered gift.
  • In Winnipeg, Canada, a local library system held a battery collection challenge between its branches to see which could collect the most batteries.
  • Sioux Falls; Western Lake Superior Sanitary District in Duluth, MN (WLSSD);and city of Austin, TX, representatives attend community events, such as home and builder shows, county fairs, garden expos and other community/department-sponsored events (electronics collections, environmental fairs and school education) to encourage rechargeable battery and cell phone recycling.

Tip 3:  Improve accessibility by expanding your network of drop off locations.

Many communities are moving to curbside battery pick-up.  Not there yet? Here are some ideas that make battery recycling accessible and convenient for the community.

  • WLSSD works with local charitable thrift stores to recycle rechargeable batteries contained in donated electronics that cannot be resold.
  • Marion County added 20 drop off locations to supplement those in the Call2Recycle North American network and reach rural residents who don’t have curbside collection.
  • Some cities are considering a free collection app that allows residents to use their mobile phones to locate drop-off sites and set up collection day reminders.

No two community recycling programs are the same. What works for one community may not work in another. But everyone can agree that the environment would benefit if we threw fewer batteries in the trash and recycled more.

Linda Gabor is the VP of Marketing and Customer Service at Call2Recycle. Founded in 1994, Call2Recycle, Inc.— operating North America’s first and largest consumer battery stewardship program—is a non-profit organization that collects and recycles batteries at no cost for municipalities, businesses and consumers.  Since 1996, Call2Recycle has diverted 100 million pounds (45 million kilograms) of batteries and cellphones from the solid waste stream and established over 34,000 collection sites throughout the U.S. and Canada.  It is the first program of its kind to receive the Responsible Recycling Practices Standard (R2) certification. Learn more at call2recycle.org or call2recycle.ca or 877-723-1297.  Follow at facebook.com/call2recycle or twitter.com/call2recycle.

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