That was a trivia question I asked several grade five groups at the Halton Children’s Water Festival. Believe it or not, about half of them said true and the other half said false! The answer is TRUE! Batteries should absolutely not go in the garbage (I’ll tell you where they should go a little later on).
A recent study indicates that approximately one third of Ontario residents are throwing batteries in the garbage. This figure probably does not count the countless bags of batteries that we have stashed in our junk drawers at home!
Here’s another brainteaser for you: how many household batteries are estimated to be sold in Canada in 2012?
A) 750 million
B) 225 million
C) One billion
If you guessed A, you are correct. Approximately 750 million household batteries will be sold in Canada in 2012. That’s a lot of batteries needed to power our toys, electronics, health equipment and other gadgets that can potentially make their way to our landfill.
There are many types of batteries, though all household batteries fall under one of two categories:
1. Primary batteries, otherwise known as single-use batteries
2. Secondary batteries, otherwise known as rechargeable batteries
In Canada 95% of all batteries consumed are single-use, therefore only 5% are rechargeable. All household batteries, regardless if they are primary or secondary, can be recycled.
Why recycle? Why not! Before 1996 many household batteries contained mercury. Therefore it was crucial to keep these materials out of the landfill. Even though batteries manufactured today contain little to no mercury, it is still important to keep batteries out of landfills as they contain various chemicals and hazardous materials.
Batteries are legislated as household hazardous waste by Ontario’s Waste Diversion Act under Ontario Regulation 542/06 Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste. Therefore programs have been created to capture batteries in a recycling stream. Two programs that are available in Halton Region are Stewardship Ontario’s Battery Incentive Program and Call2Recycle’s rechargeable battery recycling program.
Raw Materials Company (RMC), a Stewardship Ontario authorized collector and processor, states that even though household batteries are only a small amount of total waste, they are responsible for between 50 to 70% of all heavy metals found in landfills. They don’t want to see batteries in our landfill and neither do we, so RMC recycles them.
Alkaline batteries are one of the most common household batteries and RMC can recover 86.5% of an alkaline battery for reuse! Some of the metal from this process may go in to making new batteries, although a lot of the extracted materials are sold in to the marketplace to reduce the need to mine for new raw materials.
One more trivia question: what is the Zinc/Manganese Potassium removed from alkaline batteries sold in to the marketplace for?
A) for students to conduct science experiments in chemistry class
B) micro nutrient fertilizer in the agricultural industry for corn
C) ingredients to be added to a formula that stimulates hair growth
If you guessed B, micro nutrient fertilizer for corn, which is often destined for bio-fuel, you would be correct! Approximately 65% of an alkaline battery contains zinc, manganese and potassium. The other major materials in an alkaline battery are steel, paper and plastic. About 25% of an alkaline battery is made up of steel. Once this material is removed it can be used during the production of new steel. The remaining elements of an alkaline battery are paper and plastic, which after it is washed and dried it is used as a raw material in an energy conversion process.
So where can we take our batteries that have been sitting in our drawers and cupboards for all of those years? Halton Region operates over 25 Battery Recycling Depots in Regional and Local Municipal facilities. Halton’s program accepts single-use and rechargeable batteries as well as cell phones.
Since, 2009 Halton has recycled over 30 metric tonnes of batteries just by the battery recycling depots alone! The weight is over three times that amount when we add the batteries collected at our Special Waste Drop-off Days and through our Household Hazardous Waste Depot.
Also, Stewardship Ontario runs Orange Drop, which is another way to check where you can recycle your batteries.
So, after reading all the what, where and hows of battery recycling… are you smarter than a fifth grader?
No matter what grade you are (or aren’t) in, everyone should make sure they bring their batteries to a battery recycling depot instead of throwing them in the garbage. There are many of them out there and are easy to locate! If you know of a battery recycling location that is not on our list, please let us know, we’d love to hear from you!