Monday, April 8, 2013

Household AA Battery Recycling

I recycle. Sometimes, I've even been accused of being a tree-hugger for my green ways. However, I'm an engineer, not an environmentalist. In fact, it seemed odd to me that more people didn't realize that "Going Green" wasn't really about saving the environment. It was all about the money, which had the added benefit of saving the environment.

CFL bulbs, rechargeable batteries, we all love them for the money they save us, until they're worthless and then, in the great American fashion - We chuck 'em.
Your remote control forces you to watch the same channel all night long, the clock on the wall runs slow, your daughter's princess piano has mercifully fallen silent. In the end, all those 'AA' and 'AAA' batteries are headed for your trashcan.
Why? Why do we throw away so much stuff that still has intrinsic value? Simple: It no longer has value to me.

It's also very easy to answer that question if you consider the trade-off between fidelity and convenience.
Think about it. You're sitting at your desk at work. You hold a piece of paper in your hand that is suddenly worthless to you. A trashcan sits immediately below your desk and the Paper Recycling Bin sits clear across the office next to the printer. Where does the paper go?
Convenience: trash can, back to work.

Fidelity, after endless marketing ads, news stories of extremist tree-huggers chained to trees, guilt about global warming and your carbon footprint, and razed rainforests in the Amazon, etc... Fidelity offers you the rich experience of knowing that you've done your part at the high cost of breaking your concentration and flow so you can stand up and walk to the recycling bin.
I believe that more people would recycle, or recycle more, if it was simply more convenient. People that don't care about the environment happily recycle when the opportunity to do so is as easy as throwing it in the trash.
How many of you recycle old batteries?
You don't. Even though they are worse than throwing paper in the trash, you chuck them and religiously recycle your paper because you have a place to put the paper. Where are you going to put two old "AA" batteries?

Armed with this knowledge, I set up a method to give people I work with everyday the opportunity to recycle their old clock batteries, cordless phone batteries, flashlight batteries. I grabbed a cardboard box, printed off some pictures from the internet and instantly created a Battery Recycling Center.

I placed this Battery Recycling Center in our workroom and was amazed at how quickly this little box filled up. Batteries of all types were dumped in my box. Double AA, triple AAA, C, D, cell phone, laptop, cordless phone, camera, drill, etc. I was astounded at what one little box had just diverted from the local landfill.

Even if you did save those old remote control batteries, where can you responsibly dump that toxic waste? I didn't know, and suddenly had 20lbs of Ni-Cd, and Lithium batteries that I didn't know what to do with. I tried, but failed when I learned that Home Depot and Lowes's will accept the large rechargeable batteries that go in power tools. Their bins, however, state that they do not want the common place batteries.
Staples! And you only thought they were good for recycling your old ink cartridges. Staples has a program called Easy on the Planet and they gladly accept your old batteries.(Note: After researching the corporate website online, it states only rechargeable batteries. However, my local Staples was eager to take my box full of assorted batteries, alkalines included. Check with your local Staples.)

I'm an engineer and I tend to frown on inefficiencies. Engineers like to solve problems and do things cheaper, better, faster. Thank you Staples for being a convenient method for the average consumer to recycle common household batteries.

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