Waste Battery Recycling

Used batteries in front of a recycling box
A CONVENIENT PLACE FOR INDIVIDUALS TO BRING WASTE BATTERIES

Art’s Automotive will accept alkaline batteries, NiMH batteries, NiCAD batteries, old cell phones, PDAs, and any other small form factor electronic device from individuals (no businesses or institutions). This is not a free service. We will be charging $2.00 per pound to cover part of our costs. If you don’t want to spend a $2.00 per pound, you can dispose of your batteries for free though the Alameda County Household Hazardous Waste Program. Their drop off hours are limited to 12 hours per week. Many people find this inconvenient. We are open 50 hours per week, so if the convenience is worth the cost, you are welcome to bring your batteries to us. If you have over 45 pounds, or you would like to set up your own collection station, check Toxco’s Big Green Box website.

If you would like to know how to safely and legally dispose of other hazardous waste, or you are interested in other ways to do the earth right, check out the Alameda County Waste Management Authority / Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board. An easy to remember name that just rolls off the tongue huh?. Despite their unwieldy name, they do noble work. So give their web site a browse won’tcha.

If you are wondering how and why an automotive repair shop is collecting household batteries, read on…

WE THOUGHT, “HEY, WE’RE EXPERIENCED WASTE COLLECTORS.”

Art’s Automotive has a long history of collecting environmentally harmful substances from the public to ensure that they are disposed of properly. For years we’ve taken motor oil, transmission fluid and oil, and automotive batteries from the public at no charge.

When the fine folks at Alameda County Waste Management Authority asked if we took household batteries, we checked around to see if we could find a good source for disposing of the batteries. We made a few calls. Walgreens said they would take batteries, Interstate Batteries said they would take batteries, and Radio Shack said that they would take batteries.

We figured that we would agree to take batteries from the public and then take them to someone else. We’d be one more place to take batteries and make it a little more convenient for people to dispose of batteries properly. Apparently it was pretty convenient, hardly a day goes by when we don’t get a bag of batteries. Berkeley is a wonderfully environmentally conscious place, and we felt all warm and fuzzy inside.

WELL, THIS IS A FINE MESS YOU’VE GOTTEN US INTO PAUL

Then our troubles started. The local Walgreens took a few loads of batteries, then said, “Oh, we only take rechargeable batteries”. No problem, we thought, we’ll give the batteries to Radio Shack. They too said they’d only take rechargeable batteries. That’s OK, we can just give the batteries to Interstate Batteries. That worked for a while, then they said they could not take any more alkaline batteries.

Uh oh! We began telling people who called on the phone that we were not taking batteries. However, when people showed up in person, we took the batteries with the idea one day we would figure out what to do with them. We called the Alameda County Waste Management Authority to find out who would take the batteries. It turns out it was us!, or the Alameda County Hazardous Waste Program.

We called the Alameda County Hazardous Waste Program and asked if we could bring all our batteries to them. They said no. The program was only for Alameda County Residents, not for businesses. They advised us that we should not be taking batteries from the public. At this point, I had to agree.

SAVED BY TOXCO

Well, after some frantic searching on the Internet, I found the ONLY alkaline battery recycling program in the United States. There may be other disposal programs, but this is the only place you can send your batteries and know they being broken down and reused, not stuck in a land fill. 

They have a program for small producers of waste called The Big Green Box (http://www.thebiggreenbox.com) . For $63.00, they will send a 12″x12″x9.5″ box, shipping paid in both directions, for you to fill with batteries of any sort (except military). So here’s the deal. We figure most people will not have almost a square foot of batteries to dispose of, so the box will be a poor value for them.

This is a nonprofit venture, but we’ve had a taste of how many batteries the public can bring, and we’re not willing to foot the bill for everyone. If you want to save a buck, and you’re are an Alameda County resident, you can bring your batteries to the Alameda County Hazardous Waste Program for free. We have not received response from the ACHWP as to what they do with the batteries they receive (just called yesterday, 01/22/2004, though) You can call (800) 606-6606 for more info. Otherwise, bring the batteries to us and we’ll make sure they don’t end up in the landfill. By the way, we’re told it’s legal to throw batteries in the trash. It’s also legal to eat salmon, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. (If you to don’t know what I’m alluding to, check this out)

UPDATE FEB. 2006

As of 2/08/2006, it is now illegal for individuals and small businesses to dispose of batteries in the trash, punishable with a fine of up to $25,000. It is also illegal to dispose of florescent bulbs and electronic devices like cell phones, PDAs, computers, etc. This is a state law; however, developing a recycling program infrastructure to allow citizens and businesses to comply with the law is completely up to the individual counties.

In Alameda county, the same anemic 12 hour per week program, with only 3 locations spaced many miles apart is all that is offered. If we had only the country program, everybody would need to personally drive their batteries, bulbs, and electronics to Oakland, Hayward, or Livermore. I doubt the average Joe will take the time to comply with the law and will instead hide their batteries in their trash.

If we were serious about stopping environmental damage, it seems to me that the first step would be to make it easy for people who are not especially motivated to save the world to recycle their toxic waste. Making a law with no convenient way to comply, then announcing it will not be enforced unless there is a specific complaint, seems like it may cause some mild guilt, but is unlikely to significantly change individuals disposal habit.

This link goes to an article about the new law

WE’RE STILL JUST AS DUMB AS WE WERE

We are going to continue to take batteries from the public at $2.00 per pound, which covers our out of pocket cost for the Big Green Box, but not the time it takes an employee to tape the terminals on every single battery and pack them into the box. When the new law was announced, we considered halting our public collection program due to our fears it would start to consume too much time. We’ve decided to wait and see.

Luckily, it looks like big business may come to the rescue. Corporations and large companies look like they will be taking the lead in making it easy for people to do the right thing on a large scale. IKEA is taking florescent bulbs and batteries free of charge from the public. Orchard Supply Hardware is taking household batteries at no charge. Longs Drugs may be starting a battery recycling and florescent recycling program soon. Hopefully other multi-location companies will join in, and make it easy and convenient for people to do the right thing.

For businesses of all sizes

Toxco / Big Green Box is still providing an easy way to dispose of batteries and small electronics They’re still the only alkaline battery recycling program in the US. Wherever you take your batteries to be recycled, they’ll end up at Toxco.

LampTracker is providing safe disposal of florescent lamps with a program similar to Big Green Box, where you purchase a box, fill it with bulbs, and UPS picks it up. Granger also offers a florescent box, but it’s cheaper to get the box directly from LampTracker.

BUY RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES

A word of advice for everyone. BUY NiMH BATTERIES!!! They are better in high load devices like digital cameras and they can be charged at least 500 times before they wear out. That’s not a typo, 500 times! We’ve been using them for the walkie talkies at the shop for over 2 years and have not taken any of the batteries out of service yet. They are far superior to the old NiCAD batteries. They last a lot longer and do not have a memory, so you can charge the battery up when it’s only half discharged without ruining it.