Charge it up, don't throw it out!

RBRC Battery Recycling Logo

Cordless and cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and camcorders, remote control cars and cordless power tools. Each of these devices rely on rechargeable batteries, which given enough time and use fail to hold a charge. What do you do with the formerly-rechargeable Nickel Cadmium, Nickel Metal Hydride, Lithium Ion, and Sealed Lead batteries? Recycle them, of course!

Recently, the battery in our cordless phone stopped holding it's charge. Our phone calls were reduced to less than five minutes before hearing the tell-tale 'low-battery' beep. Despite some creative battery discharging and recharging techniques the rechargeable battery was at the end of it's useful life. Not far from our house is a specialty battery retailer that happened to have the appropriate battery for the phone. They also participate in the Call2Recycle™ Program.

The Call2Recycle™ Program is run by the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation. The RBRC is a non-profit, public service organization created by the rechargeable power industry and is focused on the recycling of rechargeable batteries and cell phones. RBRC recycles Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH), Lithium Ion (Li-ion) and Small Sealed Lead (Pb) batteries.

The RBRC has a FAQ page that answers most of the usual questions you might have about rechargeable battery recycling. I had a few questions beyond the usual and fortunately the folks at RBRC were able to answer those:

EcoNewMexico - Where are the rechargeable batteries collected by RBRC recycled?

RBRC - All of the cell phones and rechargeable batteries collected through our recycling program, Call2Recycle™, are sent to a recycling facility, INMETCO, located in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh). Once the materials are received at INMETCO, they separate the different battery chemistries then they are broken down and recycled, and the cell phones are sent to ReCellular (located in Dexter, Michigan). All of the batteries from the cell phones are recycled, and none of the material broken down from the recycling of rechargeable batteries and cell phones makes its ways into the landfills.

EcoNewMexico - What is the process by which the metals from the rechargeable batteries are reclaimed?

RBRC - INMETCO is the only facility in North America that provides thermal recovery for nickel-cadmium batteries, the technology that the U.S. EPA has determined to be BDAT (Best Demonstrated Available Technology) for cadmium disposal. INMETCO recycles large industrial cells that are used by railroads, electric utilities, the military and telecommunication companies for back-up power as well as small nickel-cadmium cells that are used in transceivers, portable power tools and appliances, medical equipment and emergency lighting systems.

EcoNewMexico - How many batteries (numbers/pounds) did RBRC recycle in 2007?

RBRC - Since 1996, RBRC has collected over 42 million pounds of rechargeable batteries in the U.S and Canada. In 2007 alone, we’re pleased to report that we recycled more than 6.3 million pounds of rechargeable batteries - a 12% increase from 2006.

EcoNewMexico - What's percentage of dead cell phone batteries are recycled vs. landfilled?

RBRC - None of the material broken down from the recycling of rechargeable batteries and cell phones collected through our program, makes its ways into the landfills. As for cell phone batteries not collected through our program, it is difficult to determine the percentage of batteries that are recycled vs. landfilled for several reasons. The longevity of a battery definitely impacts the recycling rate, as individual usage patterns vary. We have found that many individuals hold on to their old electronics, rechargeable batteries and cell phones for several months, or even years before disposing of them.

EcoNewMexico - What are the RBRC goals for 2008 and beyond?

RBRC - RBRC’s goals for 2008 and beyond is to continue our ongoing public awareness initiatives aimed at disseminating our message to consumers, retailers, businesses, communities, and public agencies. Utilizing our influential spokespeople, we have developed a public education campaign to further deliver our message to the public – it’s free and it’s easy. Through continued outreach and strong public education efforts, RBRC would like to see rechargeable battery recycling become just as common as recycling newspapers, glass, and plastic.

So, this is good news for all of us with dead rechargeable batteries. Drop those dead Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Li-ion and Small Sealed Lead batteries off at a Call 2 Recycle participating location. The rechargeable batteries will be recycled in the U.S. by companies that comply with EPA environmental standards. And those batteries won't be taking up room in your junk drawer or end up in a landfill either.

More Info:

Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation

INMETCO - Battery Recycling


Computer and Electronics Recycling