CRB Seeking Stewardship Organization to Oversee Voluntary National Household Battery Recycling Program

July 10, 2012 by Jeff Shepard

The Corporation for Battery Recycling (CBR), a non-profit organization comprised of Duracell, Energizer, Panasonic and Rayovac, the four largest US battery companies, issued a request for proposal that seeks a business partner to steward the collection and recycling of household batteries. The battery group’s work began in 2011 with a full life cycle analysis by MIT of consumer batteries which indicated that, under the right circumstances, collection and recycling could be net environmentally positive. This new finding led to the formation of CBR, the governing entity that has begun the process for a national battery recycling effort.

"Our vision is to have an industry-led voluntary program that redefines how U.S. consumers dispose of batteries, maximizing the reuse of spent battery materials and producing zero waste to landfill," said Marc K. Boolish, president of CBR. "We are seeking a stewardship organization with the capacity to build a national program that is convenient and inspires consumers to participate by recycling the batteries they use in a range of electronic and household devices."

CBR members have been working together to review the implications from the life cycle analysis and create a framework for voluntary recycling where the use of recovered materials such as zinc, manganese and steel offsets the extraction impact of virgin materials.

Proposals are sought from qualified and experienced businesses to act as a Stewardship Organization, responsible for managing and delivering an environmentally positive and cost-effective national program for recycling primary batteries. The Stewardship Organization will be responsible for compliance with all laws and regulations, and must address technical or other challenges associated with recycling of household primary batteries.

The national program will focus on the collection of all consumer batteries and recycling of primary cylindrical and prismatic alkaline manganese, zinc carbon, and lithium batteries up to a maximum of 2kg and zinc air, silver oxide, alkaline manganese and lithium button/coin cells.

Preliminary research conducted by CBR indicated that consumers typically don’t differentiate between primary batteries and others, so the SO response must include a solution for other batteries (i.e. rechargeables, lithium thionyl chloride, etc.) that are likely to appear in collection channels.

The execution of a communication and education program is an integral component of the stewardship organization’s responsibility. The awareness campaign is under development to inspire, educate and motivate consumers of primary household batteries to voluntarily participate in the program and demonstrate that now there is an easy, convenient way to recycle these batteries.

A core tenet of the program is to have a net environmentally positive system for all batteries (measured against a baseline of environmental impact of land filling batteries under current assumptions). Proposals must include recommendations for how to continuously improve environmental impact of batteries using the following four metrics:

Reducing Human Health Impacts

Ecosystem quality

Global Warming Potential

Resources Depletion (including energy demand)

Lastly, effective tracking and reporting systems to manage the end-to-end collection, sorting, transportation and recycling of primary batteries against clearly defined goals are an important part of the proposal response.