Can this go in the trash? Should this be recycled? Every day, Americans are trying to figure out the best way to handle household items once they’ve reached their end of life. Consumer batteries are a part of that puzzle.
The Harris Poll, on behalf of Call2Recycle, recently conducted an online survey of 2,020 adults in the U.S. from March 28 through April 1 to understand consumer recycling behaviors. The survey showed that a majority of Americans may be “wishful recyclers” and that many who have curbside recycling are putting items that won’t get recycled into their receptacles. This report offers insights into these behaviors, underscoring the need for continued consumer battery recycling education.
“Our recently commissioned survey conducted online by The Harris Poll revealed key insights regarding consumer recycling behaviors. From this data pulse, we can see how ‘wishful recycling’ is impacting the recycling landscape and trickling down to consumer battery management. The findings reinforce the need for continued consumer education and awareness to positively impact recycling practices. Earth Day is a great platform to remind consumers about proper battery management and how their efforts affect the planet,” said Linda Gabor, executive vice president of external relations for Call2Recycle, Inc., in a statement.
Here are some of the key highlights from the survey:
Consumers who place items into their curbside bins that won’t be recycled are unknowingly creating more harm than good. The research showed more than two in five Americans who have curbside recycling (42 percent) have put plastics bags in, about one in three (31 percent) placed empty greasy pizza boxes in and close to one in five (16 percent) have put batteries in curbside recycling receptacles.
While motivated to help the planet, these non-accepted materials end up contaminating other recyclables, which can lead to safety hazards at materials recovery facilities (MRFs). As a result, people and property can be at risk.
Battery Recycling Awareness and Behavior
Roughly three in 10 Americans don’t believe single-use (30 percent) or rechargeable batteries (27 percent) are recyclable and another three in 10 are not sure at all (27 and 29 percent, respectively). These results spotlight a gap between consumer education and battery recycling. With more battery recycling awareness, the goal is for consumers to be informed and change behaviors.
Knowledge is a powerful driver of behavior, especially when it comes to adopting new habits. According to the survey, only about a third of Americans who’ve owned no longer functioning single-use (34 percent) and rechargeable (39 percent) batteries typically recycle them, and those aged 18 to 34 are more likely to hoard them (8 percent store single-use versus 3 percent ages 65-plus; 11 percent store rechargeable versus 4 percent ages 45-plus). These results highlight the need to break the battery hoarder habit and engage specific generations.
Based on survey feedback, the leading reason no-longer-functioning batteries get stored is lack of knowledge on proper disposal. Nearly two in five Americans who store no-longer-working batteries (39 percent) do so because they are unsure of what to do with them; only about a quarter (28 percent) are holding them for a future recycling trip. This is another example of needing to break the battery hoarder habit, especially as it relates to how those battery types are stored. Batteries should be kept in non-metal containers with their positive terminals covered by non-conductive tape or individually bagged. They shouldn’t be stored for more than a year.
The findings reveal that there is still much work to be done to move the needle on consumer battery recycling. Engaging wishful recyclers and increasing educational outreach efforts can help consumers become responsible recyclers. With additional knowledge, consumers can make more informed decisions on their battery habits and impact on the planet.