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Margaret Hartley's Greenpoint
by Margaret Hartley


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Ideas on greener living

Battery recycling worth the effort

It was recycling day last week, time to move stuff from the back porch to the curb.

We’re not in one of those towns that has single-source recycling, where you put all your stuff into one bin. And we’re not one of those families that has an organized recycling center, with matching marked bins for plastics, glass, paper, etc.

Our town picks up recyclables twice a month, and we often remember which day. And when we do remember the day, we sometimes remember to put out our stuff. Since we don’t actually buy a lot of cans or plastic or glass containers, we can let it pile up for a while.

But not forever. So midweek I brought in the boxes I save from buying bushels of cider apples from the orchard, and sorted through random bags of recyclables on the back porch or hanging on the kitchen doorknob.

Our town picks up glass, newspaper and cardboard, cans and certain plastics. I had a box full of plastic — milk and juice jugs, dish detergent containers and some (Yes! I admit it!) single-serve drink bottles that I fully blame on my son and husband. Why can’t they refill drink bottles?

I also had a small bag of cans, but not enough glass to put out. We take our paper and cardboard to a collection site that uses paper fibers to make insulation. And other plastics (clamshell strawberry containers and bottle tops, for instance) I save for my friend with single-source recycling. Her town takes a wider variety of plastics than mine does.

Left on the shelf by the sink was that coffee can labeled “Bad Old Batteries.”

The can is full. Something has to be done.

New York state is pretty clear on what to do with unusable rechargeable batteries. All retailers who sell rechargeables (except for grocery stores under 14,000 square feet) have to take them back for recycling.
Rechargeables include batteries for cell phones, laptops and cordless tools and phones. And it’s against the law to throw rechargeable batteries in the trash.

If you bought your rechargebles somewhere not convenient for you to make a return, you can visit to find the collection site nearest you.

Call2recycle has information on where to recycle lots of products, but not your normal household batteries — like the AAs and AAAs, Cs and Ds, that our Bad Old Battery can is full of.

Those batteries aren’t as hazardous as they used to be. During the 1980s, the amount of mercury in those so-called single-use batteries was reduced by about 98 percent. As a result, all states but California allow you to throw batteries in the trash.

But it’s far better to keep batteries out of landfills and incinerators, because even small amounts of mercury — and cadmium and lead — are not good for our water, soil and air.

Some counties collect them for recycling — Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence do. Or you can collect them yourself in your own coffee can, wait for your town or county to hold a hazardous-waste collection day, and drop them off hoping they will be safely disposed of.

Or you can pay to recycle them.

Colt Recycling, at the Scotia-Glenville Industrial Park, will take rechargeables for free, and alkaline single-use batteries for 95 cents a pound. (Call 377-2200 for hours and details.)

If that’s not convenient for you, there are companies that will mail you recycling kits to fill and mail back. Earth.911 lists several sites that will take your single-use batteries.

One example is Lampmaster in Michigan. You can order an empty one-gallon bucket (return postage paid) for around $70, fill it with 15 pounds of your dead batteries, and then mail it back. A 5-gallon bucket, which holds 69 pounds of batteries, costs $120.

A spokesman at the company said they get batteries in by the truckload, and send them out for processing, reclaiming metals and chemicals for industrial reuse.

You could go in with a couple of friends who have their own cans of batteries, and order a bucket to share.

It might be pricey, but it’s a lot better than tossing them out with the trash.

Margaret Hartley is the Gazette’s Sunday and features editor. Greenpoint appears in the Gazette’s print edition Sundays on the Environment page.

Have a question or a topic you’d like addressed on Greenpoint? Contact or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter.

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