LIVING GREEN: Program offers sites for battery recycling

Battery recycling bins at the Marquette Food Co-op are pictured. Batteries can be dropped off for recycling at the co-op and several other locations around the county, as the local battery recycling program picks up batteries collected at these locations to recycle them and keep them out of the landfill. (Journal photo courtesy of Maura Davenport)

MARQUETTE — Batteries contain a number of heavy metals and toxic chemicals that have the potential to contaminate water and soil. To address this, many have banded together locally to keep batteries out of the landfill by offering sites where they can be dropped off for recycling.

“Batteries play an important role in our every day lives. Since we all use them, we need to responsibly dispose of them properly,” said Maura Davenport of the Battery Recycling Committee of Marquette. “Getting used batteries to a collection center promotes recycling, reduces volume at the landfill and keeps potential hazardous components from leaching into the groundwater.”

In Marquette, battery recycling has expanded greatly since a number of organizations and residents started the project in 2009.

“We had an idea, the Community Foundation (of Marquette County) gave the money, we convened the group. And 10 years later, we are still recycling batteries — about 400 to 600 pounds a month,” Davenport said.

This was one of the first large, collaborative projects the community foundation was involved in, Davenport said, as the foundation has been involved in large-scale collaborations such as the Great Lakes One Water Partnership, the Clean Energy Initiative and the Community Environmental Monitoring program at the Eagle Mine since then.

“We worked together as groups in a collaborative effort to make something happen,” Davenport said. “And that’s kind of the direction the community foundation is going in now — being a convener for projects and bringing groups together to make things happen.”

It all started with Emily Whitaker of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, who was passionate about creating a program to recycle batteries in Marquette. Whitaker wrote a grant application to the Community Foundation of Marquette County to obtain support for the project, Davenport said.

Over the course of a year, Whitaker and Davenport met with representatives from the community foundation, the Marquette County Solid Waste Authority, the Marquette Food Co-op, Messiah Lutheran Church, the Superior Watershed Partnership, the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, Northern Michigan University and the Citizens for Peace and Justice to develop a plan.

Once the plan was completed, the community foundation awarded the funds and the project began in earnest, Davenport said.

The committee started small, with three members — Whitaker, Davenport and Jo Foley — who went to battery drop-off sites in the community and collected batteries to bring out to the landfill, where the batteries are then diverted to be shipped off and recycled.

“When you’re passionate about something, you will do whatever you can,” Davenport said.

In recent years, Chuck Norlin, Carla Campagne and Josh Wales joined the committee as the project expanded.

As the project grew, so did the need for space and pickup, Davenport said, noting that the Peter White Public Library offered its garage to store the batteries collected from drop-off sites so they can be picked up by the landfill each month. Once collected by landfill personnel, the rechargeable batteries go to Call2Recycle and while all others go to Battery Solutions in Lower Michigan.

Davenport is grateful for the support of the Marquette County Solid Waste Authority, she said, as it’s budgeted money for battery recycling in its programs, provided buckets for battery drop-off sites and collects the batteries from the library.

“They have been absolutely wonderful to us,” Davenport said.

Currently, the group is in need of people to haul batteries to the landfill as a supplement to the monthly pickup by the landfill because the program has grown so much, Davenport said.

“Our greatest need right now is people to volunteer to haul the batteries from the library to the landfill,” she said, adding that a trailer and/or truck would be ideal, as loads can be 400 to 600 pounds.

Davenport said this is needed if the program is going to continue to grow, noting that the volume has increased tremendously since it started.

Davenport asks interested parties to contact her at 906-226-3900 or mhdavenport54@hotmail.com.