Battery Recycling Program


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Sustainable Moraga was the only group in Contra Costa County to implement the California Universal Waste Rule that as of February 9, 2006 prohibits battery disposal in landfills.

Convinced that people are most inclined to recycle if recycling is convenient, Sustainable Moraga members realized that people would be unlikely to make the 35 mile round trip to the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility in Martinez, CA to dispose of their used batteries. They felt sure that if used batteries were collected locally, people would recycle them. Thus — to much media coverage — was born the only battery collection program in the East Bay.

Sustainable Moraga volunteers installed five-gallon battery recycling bins near the front doors of cooperative local merchants, making recycling easy and convenient, and they publicized the sites widely. The program was overwhelmingly successful: within its first eight months, volunteers collected almost 7,000 pounds of batteries in their town of only 17,000. They continue to collect about 1000 pounds per month.

Collection bins are near the front doors of

  • Longs Moraga Center
  • Longs Rheem Center
  • Moraga Hardware and Lumber
  • Orchard Supply Hardware

Moving Toward Public Agency Collection

The enormous quantities, the difficulties of handling the seventy pound collection bins, and the time and energy required to make the 35 mile round-trip to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility revealed as early as the second month of the program that a public agency would have to be persuaded to take over battery collection as soon as possible. Despite the new law, though, no public agency in Contra Costa seemed ready to do so.

Clearly, pressure was needed. The Battery Recycling Committee alerted the press and got extensive coverage of the problem since it prevails statewide. Front-page articles in two newspapers gave the group credibility as it then made presentations to local agencies outlining the dangers posed by batteries in landfills and the difficulties faced by amateurs collecting and transporting 70-pound bins of batteries. They addressed the Moraga Town Council, the Central Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials Commission, the Boards of the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District and the Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority, and a County Supervisor. Each presentation advanced the cause a bit.

Finally, the local County Supervisor and two members of the Moraga Town Council used their positions on the Board of the Solid Waste Authority to urge the agency to implement an ongoing battery collection program throughout its jurisdiction. Success came in August, 2006, when the Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority Board agreed to fund and implement weekly battery collection from containers in 18 sites in central Contra Costa County. Supporters hope the program will start in late November, 2006.

The Scope of Battery-caused Pollution

According the US Environmental Protection Agency, approximately three billion batteries are sold in the US annually, but fewer than one percent of them are recycled. The California Department of Toxic Substance Control recognizes all household batteries as hazardous waste when discarded. http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/UniversalWaste/index.cfm.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board found batteries to be one of the largest categories of household hazardous waste land-filled in California: more than 34,000 tons of batteries are land-filled annually (http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/Publications/default.asp?pubid=1097).

Eventually, toxic metals — cadmium, copper, zinc, lead, manganese, nickel, and lithium — leach from batteries deposited in landfills, contaminating soil and water. Clearly recycling them is essential. Recycling companies reclaim the metals and sell them to industry.

Awards

On Earth Day, 2006, the California Environmental Protection Agency gave Sustainable Moraga an award identifying its Battery Recycling Program as “a superb example of a local citizens’ group identifying a need and finding partners — merchants, public agencies, and media — to help fill the need.”

In September, 2006, the Town of Moraga awarded the group a proclamation of appreciation to Sustainable Moraga for its “many services in establishing the Battery Recycling Program.”