Over three billion dry-cell batteries are purchased in the U.S. annually. These consumer-type single-use and rechargeable batteries are used in a wide range of portable devices and household items such as calculators, clocks, cameras, flashlights, watches, and toys. Certain rechargeable batteries may contain toxic materials which can pose environmental and public health risks when disposed of in the trash. Although there are many battery recycling programs across North America, the vast majority of both rechargeable and single-use batteries continue to be sent to landfills and waste-to-energy facilities. This unnecessarily squanders material resources and energy and also represents a missed opportunity for recycling jobs. Furthermore, landfilling can result in risk of groundwater contamination from leachate that may contain metals from disposed batteries and incineration can result in carbon dioxide and other emissions released to the air from the combustion process. There is also a lack of consumer awareness about the need to recycle certain batteries or how to do so.
Mandatory battery EPR programs are an effective solution for providing consumers with a responsible and convenient way to dispose of discarded batteries. EPR also provides a long-term, sustainable financing system to manage spent batteries in a manner that alleviates the financial burden faced by governments and reduces the environmental impacts and overall cost of battery management.
Over the past 25 years, 11 laws have been passed in 9 states relating to the management and recycling of different types of batteries, and new bills continue to be introduced. In May, 2014, Vermont passed a first-in-the-nation extended producer responsibility law covering single-use batteries. This law requires battery manufacturers to implement a convenient collection program to manage the more than 10 million batteries estimated to be sold in Vermont each year. This program began in January 2016.
During the 2016 legislative session, household battery EPR bills were active in California (AB 1159) and Maine (LD 1578) for single-use and rechargeable batteries, and in New York (S 4522, A 9921) for single-use batteries only. In recent years (2013-2015), such bills were introduced in eight states: 1) for single-use and rechargeable battery bills in CA, CT, and TX; 2) for single-use batteries in MN, NY, and VT (passed); and 3) for rechargeable batteries in OR and WA. Some of these bills also set out requirements to address batteries contained in products.
Call2Recycle, the largest and oldest battery collection and recycling organization in the U.S. and Canada, provides free collection containers for local governments, municipal HHW processors and recyclers, and retailers to collect rechargeable batteries for recycling through voluntary and mandatory programs. Thanks to Vermont’s new single-use battery law, they now collect single-use batteries in Vermont as well.
Local and state laws and programs contain different provisions for the scope of batteries covered (e.g., single-use or rechargeable), performance goals, reporting requirements, retailer responsibilities, and other aspects of battery management. This can add to consumer confusion and reduce motivation to recycle. To maximize recycling of batteries, consumer convenience and outreach needs to be central to any program. An approach to battery stewardship that includes both single-use and rechargeable batteries is essential to achieving this goal. If consumers cannot easily assess how to participate in battery recycling, they are more likely to throw their batteries in the trash.
PSI's Role in Delivering Solutions
Provides Technical Assistance
Brings Stakeholders Together
PSI works to bring various stakeholders together, including industries, state and local governments, recyclers, and NGOs to create programs and develop solutions to improve the collection and recycling of batteries. This work has included facilitating national stakeholder dialogues, testifying in support of product stewardship legislation, holding periodic conference calls on key current issues, and developing reports on the issues associated with battery recycling.
In June 2014, PSI facilitated a national battery stewardship dialogue meeting in Hartford, Connecticut
to advance battery stewardship and further consider approaches to increase the collection and recycling of batteries. More than 130 local, state, and federal government officials, battery manufacturers, recyclers, retailers, and other key stakeholders attended the meeting. Government officials participating represented 23 states. Subsequent to this meeting, PSI continued to work with battery manufacturers, government agencies from across the U.S., and other key stakeholders to advance discussions on battery EPR that would address both primary/single-use and rechargeable batteries, as well as batteries from battery-containing products.
Advocates for EPR Legislation
, informs and advocates for product stewardship legislation for batteries. We offer expert testimony supporting EPR legislation for hearings and track state legislation to keep our members up to date. We have been working with state and local governments to introduce producer responsibility legislation for batteries to help increase recycling rates by requiring producers to take financial responsibility for the end-of–life management of both rechargeable and single-use batteries.
Conducts Research and Evaluates Programs
PSI offers research and analysis services to inform and shape product stewardship policy. To prepare participants for the 2014 national battery stewardship dialogue meeting, PSI developed a Battery Stewardship Briefing Document, with stakeholder input, to serve as a basis for discussions on battery management in the United States. This document was a revised version of the 2010 Battery Stewardship Briefing Document
PSI developed with the battery industry and other key stakeholder groups in preparation for the 2010 PSI National Product Stewardship Forum
Most recently, PSI worked to develop an Elements of an Effective All-Battery EPR Bill document, which has the potential to be used as a basis for legislative language in a model battery bill and is also useful as a gauge against which to measure the contents of bills that are introduced. This document reflects consensus from PSI’s government battery group, and includes agreements reached between the battery industry and government stakeholders on key legislative concepts.
In July 2009, PSI released a report developed under contract with the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (Call2Recycle). This document, Battery Performance Metrics: Recommendations for Best Practice
, showcases the importance of evaluating the effectiveness of battery collection and recycling programs. The report also provides examples of how performance has been measured in both the United States and internationally, and offers guidelines on how to best evaluate battery take-back programs.
Creates Toolkits and Online Resources
PSI provides tools for governments, NGOs and other stakeholders that wish to start or promote battery take-back programs. The 2015 USDA project
promoted free battery collection
for local governments and retailers in the rural Northeast. PSI released Recommendations for Best Practices
for battery stewardship in 2009. See here
for more documents related to battery recycling and management.
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For more information, please contact Suna Bayrakal at (617) 671-0616.