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Recycling batteries keeps them out of landfills

September 5, 2008
By MIRIAM MOELLER, Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - Flashlights have them. They can be found in cell phones and computers. Power tools run on them. Batteries energize these and many other things that we use daily. But what happens with these batteries when they are out of juice?

There are several places in Marquette that take old batteries back and recycle them. The Marquette Food Co-op, Northern Michigan University, Wal-Mart, Radio Shack and the Marquette County Solid Waste Authority all take different types of batteries to be recycled - free of charge.

For example, the Marquette County Solid Waste Authority only takes lithium, button, lead acid and rechargeable batteries, such as the ones used in cars, cameras, cell phones and calculators.

Article Photos

Northern Michigan University student Megan Meeuwsen of Kingsford drops a battery into a recycling tube located at NMU’s Physical Education Instructional Facility Thursday. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)

"These rechargeable batteries, you're talking heavy metals," said Rick Aho, director of the authority, adding that these batteries can pollute the environment when disposed of improperly.

Aho sends most of the batteries collected for recycling to Rechargable Battery Recycling Cooperation, a nonprofit public service organization based in Atlanta.

In a "thermal recovery process," nickel, iron, cadmium, lead, and cobalt are recovered from these batteries and are reused in new batteries and stainless steel, according to the company's Web site.

However, Aho said years ago the Authority used to collect AA, D, and C batteries - the most common ones that are used in flashlights, TV remotes and tape recorders.

"At one time we were collecting these batteries and they went to these people who were recycling them," Aho said. "We found out that they were dumping them in the landfill."

Since newer non-rechargeable batteries contain a minimum of mercury, they can actually go into the landfill, Aho said. He added that to his knowledge no one has come up with a lucrative and reasonable way to recycle these types of batteries.

The Marquette Food Co-op, in cooperation with the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, sends its non-rechargeable batteries to a downstate Brighton-based company called Battery Solutions.

"Every battery gets recycled," said Jeremy Sova, Battery Solutions vice president for accounting management. "Household alkalines, they go into a steel mill melting pot and everything gets melted down."

Then zinc and other metals are extracted and resold on the metals market or used in steel, he said.

In fact, Sova said, the company's new building is made from batteries that Battery Solutions recycled. He added that Battery Solutions is a "zero landfill company," meaning that everything is recycled and no waste is produced.

Jamie Metivier, front end manager at the Marquette Food Co-op, said there is a definite need to have battery recycling programs in Marquette.

"We have been getting so many batteries, like boxes. People really want to recycle batteries," she said, adding that the co-op also takes CDs to be recycled.

Before dropping off batteries, be sure to check with the appropriate company or organization about what types of batteries they recycle.



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