This monthly column is written by Kendra Bruno, AKA Compost Girl, who is the waste prevention specialist for the city of Napa.
Doesn’t it seem like almost everything you buy or use requires batteries? I remember growing up – especially at Christmas – and getting a new toy but unable to play with it due to not having (the right) batteries.
The “batteries not included” label has reduced somewhat, but our need and consumption of batteries has only grown. And despite what the Energizer Bunny tells us, batteries do not keep going, and going, and going … they eventually die. So when they die, where should they go and which batteries should you buy to replace them?
First, a little background. Batteries are portable storages of energy, dating to the 1800s when the first dry cell was introduced at 6 inches long. Over the years, batteries have become smaller, changed in toxic composition (a few mercury-free), become longer lasting (shelf life and in use), are available in a rechargeable model (and single-use), and come in a variety of types.
The composition of a battery varies, but all are created with toxic metal chemicals – classifying them as household hazardous waste. In the State of California, it is illegal to throw batteries (single-use and rechargeable) in the trash due to their toxicity and detrimental environmental impacts. When batteries end up in the landfill, the toxic chemicals can leak into the soil and into our water supply. You also do not want to put batteries into your regular curbside recycling cart. Our single-stream recycling accepts glass, cardboard, paper, metal, and rigid plastic (no plastic bags) and when batteries end up at the recycling facility, it creates a lot of issues, including being a health risk to our friends at NRWS who hand-sort the materials.
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We always advocate for the “reduce” before “recycle” attitude. Though batteries are essential to making an item work, selecting long lasting and/or rechargeable batteries help reduce your consumption. Rechargeable batteries last longer (500–1,000 charges) and are easier to recycle. The right battery depends on the item—learn about how to choose the right battery (and more) from REI: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/batteries.html.
So the most important part: how do you properly recycle your batteries? Don’t fret: it’s easy and convenient! We have over 20 locations that accept single-use and rechargeable batteries via a battery recycling container. Locations include: Napa City Hall, Ace Hardware (all three), Healthquest Fitness Center, Napa Senior Center, Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company, and the NRWS/NCRWS Payment Center.
Find a full list of locations at: NapaRecycling.com/batteries or in our Recycle Guide. If you have school-age children, check with your respective school to see if they have a collection container. To find locations outside of Napa, go to Earth911.com and click “Recycle Search”. If you are feeling extra kind, tape the positive (+) end on the batteries before dropping them off.
For city of Napa residents (NRWS), the Recycle More Program now accepts household batteries when combined with another Recycle More pickup item – such as electronics, appliances, clothes and shoes, and oversized metal items. Schedule your free curbside pick up online at NapaRecycling.com or by calling 707-255-5200. Please place items at the curb (after scheduling your pick up) and do not include them inside your blue recycling cart.
When you recycle – everyone wins. The Household Hazardous Waste Facility works with a third party to ensure your batteries are properly recycled. Almost every type of battery is 100 percent recyclable – so do your part to secure the health of the ones you love and the environment.