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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, November 29, 2004

Recycling batteries is required

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer

When the battery pack on your laptop finally won't hold a charge for more than a few minutes, or when your cell phone battery won't last the day, you go out and buy a new one — but what to do with the old?

Slipping the rechargeable batteries from cordless power tools, camcorders, cordless phones and the like into the trash is not an acceptable option, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Fortunately, most Hawai'i residents now have a good option.

Ni-Cad and small, sealed lead-acid batteries (SSLA) contain toxic metals, and if they're not recycled, they end up in the environment where they can cause significant problems over time.

"When thrown away ... these batteries can cause serious harm to human health and the environment if they are discarded with ordinary household or workplace waste," the EPA said in an enforcement alert.

Several years ago, officials at the H-Power trash-to-energy plant in Kapolei began seeing rising levels of cadmium in stack emissions, said Honolulu recycling coordinator Suzanne Jones. Cadmium is a toxic compound found in Ni-Cad batteries.

After several years of work by H-POWER and others, the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) recently inaugurated its Charge Up To Recycle! national program on O'ahu. The RBRC is a nonprofit, public service organization founded by the rechargeable power industry.

Batteries collected through the program are shipped to a recycling facility on the Mainland where the recovered materials are used to make new batteries and stainless steel products.

Residents can find special recycling boxes at Radio Shack and Home Depot stores on O'ahu, where they can drop off Ni-Cad and SSLA battery packs.

For more information about the program, visit the city recycling Web site, www.opala.org, or the battery recycling organization's Web site at www.rbrc.org.

"RBRC recycles the following battery chemistries: nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd), nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH), lithium ion (Li-ion) and small sealed lead (Pb)," the Web site said. It adds that the sealed lead batteries the program recycles are specifically batteries that weigh less than 2 pounds, not car batteries.

Alkaline batteries, which are used in many nonrechargeable applications, are generally not recycled. At one time, alkalines were made using mercury, which can have toxic impacts.

If you have a question or concern about the Hawaiian environment, drop a note to Jan TenBruggencate at P.O. Box 524, Lihu'e, HI 96766, e-mail jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or call (808) 245-3074.