Battery Laws Need Charging

Currently, nine states and 15 countries have laws regulating the collection and recovery of certain types of batteries.

But, according to a recently published report, the laws have not allowed the industry to meet governmental battery recycling goals.

At issue in the report, "Battery Recovery Laws Worldwide" by Raymond Communication Inc., College Park, Md., are takeback laws, where companies return their commercial quantities of nickel cadmium (ni-cd) batteries to recovery facilities.

Several countries and one state, Minnesota, require that 90 percent of ni-cd rechargeable batteries be recovered, but no jurisdiction under the law has been able to recover more than 60 percent, the report states.

According to Michele Raymond, publisher of the report, recovery laws often are costly and difficult to enforce.

Her research found that United States manufacturers pay about $7.5 million per year for collection and recovery of hazardous material batteries, but manage to collect and recover only 2,500 tons of ni-cd batteries. That's about $3,000 per ton.

Recovery rates were flat in 1998 partially because of the number of batteries entering the waste stream increased by about 2 million pounds, according to the report. Also, ni-cd batteries are being replaced by other materials with no takeback requirements, Raymond says.

"Battery chemistry is changing so much, I can see the day when ni-cd will be obsolete," she says. "What's the point of all the takeback legislation of you can't get back 90 percent [of the batteries]?"

In 1995, Congress passed the Universal Waste Rule to reduce the amount of hazardous material, including several types of batteries, entering the municipal solid waste stream.

In response to increased environmental concerns, Congress passed the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act in 1996 to facilitate the collection, recycling and disposal of ni-cd and other rechargeable batteries, as well as to phase out mercury in batteries.

The report, which examines battery laws in the United States and 24 countries, also finds that in this country:

* The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corp. (RBRC), Gainesville, Fla., reported a 22 percent recycling rate for ni-cds in 1997, up from 12 percent in 1996, the first year ni-cd collection was allowed nationwide under the Universal Waste Rule.

* Consumers find it difficult to sort out which batteries to recycle or take back.

"Battery Laws Worldwide" costs $297, or $247 for subscribers of Raymond Communications' newsletters. To order, contact Michele Raymond, Raymond Communications Inc., 5111 Berwyn Rd. Ste. 115, College Park, MD 20740. Phone: (301) 345-4237. Fax: (301) 345-4768. Order e-mail: [email protected] Website: