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Re: [greenyes] Collection and recycling of batteries? (long)
Alan and Group:

I know that Green Yes mission statement is to eliminate all waste from point of
generation. Until that goal is achieved, facilities like ours who properly
manage the waste that is generated will still be necessary.  So, perhaps the
group may wish to hear from someone who is on the industrial and operation side
of the equation.

My company manages and recycles batteries in the country of California.  I see
that people who have responded to your e-mail have mentioned the RBRC.  We act
as a collection and consolidation point for the western  U.S on the behalf of
the RBRC.  The RBRC only deals with rechargeable batteries (nicad, nimh, li
ion, and SSLA - small sealed lead acid batteries that weigh less then 2
pounds).  For these battery chemistries, the RBRC is a great alternative to
landfilling.   Rechargeable batteries account for roughly 15 - 20 % of all
"consumer" batteries sold in the U.S ( we must exclude for the moment the SSLA
batteries as these batteries usually -  repeat usually - but not always, find
there way back into the recycling stream through reverse distribution, and they
are typically not considered "consumer" batteries). This percentage is further
broken down into the aforementioned (SSLA excluded) chemistries, with each
chemistry having their respective market share so to speak.

Now, with respect to your question seeking information on battery recycling.
I'm limiting my response to consumer style batteries, as industrial application
batteries enjoy a high recycling rate, this pertains to both lead and non lead
chemistries.  There is a certain cost associated when looking at the chain of
events that have to occur prior to the actual recycling of batteries.  From
these cost's, you of course would subtract out your initial handling costs, as
the batteries are handled irrespective of their final destination -  i.e..
recycle v landfill.  I infer by your e-mail that DSWA does not sort the
batteries, so therefore,  these batteries are disposed of as a mixed stream.  I
assume that these batteries go to a permitted hazardous waste disposal
facility.  So, I wonder what the cost associated with this disposal is, as that
needs to be part of our cost analysis.  A further point is that the batteries
MUST be sorted prior to landfill, as certain chemistries have landfill
restrictions as well as technology based treatment standards that have to be
met.  I will not bore you with the details, but if mixed stream batteries are
being disposed, it may be occurring in violation of your state's hazardous
waste control law. Hopefully this comment will not spark too big of a

The biggest issue surrounding the recycling of non rechargeable batteries is
the lack of control laws which require the collection of these batteries.
Without the infrastructure in place efficient collection cannot occur, thus
driving cost upward.  Obviously, if commercial facilities cannot reach
economies of scale then the costs associated with recycling "recyclable"
batteries remains high, and cost prohibitive for most organizations.  For
instance, in California common household batteries are regulated as a hazardous
waste, yet the volume of  batteries "available" for recycling remains almost
non existent.  This issue is further compounded in that for your common
alkaline battery, there is no intrinsic value for the constituents in the
battery (zinc, manganese dioxide, H20, etc..), so the only way to drive down
cost is to maintain significant production within your recycling system.  Which
of course is impossible without collection.  So the endless logic circle goes
on without reprieve.  So it is up to companies within the private sector -
commercial companies,  to establish markets as well as marketing, in order to
secure the desired end result.  Which is volume of batteries being collected,
so prices can be reduced, thus inviting more participation of industry to
recycle these commodities.

If each of these collection locations were to recycle their batteries as
opposed to landfilling them, then perhaps it may be possible to achieve costs
which would be competitive with landfill prices.  The reality is that today the
recycling of alkaline batteries remains expensive.  We offer our clients two
options.  1) Recycling and 2) landfill in a secure hazardous waste landfill.
Truth is most opt for the landfill price because it is cheaper.  Add to all of
this, the "waste broker" and their costs, the cost of transportation to the
destination, paperwork cost, container cost, it does all add up.

Our collection rates for these "household" batteries is between 175,000 -
250,000 pounds of batteries per year.  This is less then 10% of batteries
available for management in California, and does not take into account the rest
of the country.

Of course we could just eliminate batteries period which would take care of the
whole problem.

Just Kidding.

Todd Coy

Alan Muller wrote:

> Our friends at the Delaware Solid Waste Authority collect batteries (mostly
> alkalinos) at drop-off "recycling" centers.  The volume, they claim, is
> about 3000 pounds (1400 kg) per month.  Then they put them in plastic drums
> and landfill them.  They claim that recycling is "cost prohibitive" at 0.2
> to 1.20 US$ per pound, and that recyclers also want the batteries sorted by
> size before pickup.
> Can anyone advise on the details and costs of battery recycling?  Are other
> operations landfilling their "recycled" batteries?
> Thanks,
> Alan Muller
> Green Delaware
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