Curbside Recycling: Will Convenience Increase Battery Collections?

by | Dec 4, 2013

gabor, linda, call2recycleMunicipalities, waste management companies and recycling processors are joining together to find innovative and convenient ways to expand recycling. Curbside recycling is one area that municipalities are testing to see if recycling increases if curbside is used more. But the questions remain: What should be recycled at the curb and what should be reserved for drop off at recycling centers? What is the magic formula for increasing recycling at the consumer level?

Call2Recycle research found convenience was a key component of recycling; consumers defined convenience as a combination of “easy” and “distance” to travel. When the public was asked what would motivate them to recycle batteries, 19% said they would recycle more if it was more convenient, such as through curbside recycling. And 43% said that making battery and cellphone recycling part of curb-side pickup would increase the likelihood that they would recycle. Other key factors included information and incentives. The 2012 Omnibus and Attitude & Usage research was commissioned by Call2Recycle, and conducted by IPSOS, a global independent market research company.

The Rise of Curbside Recycling

Once reserved for a few-forward thinking municipalities, curbside recycling has emerged in the past 20 years as part of standard garbage collection in most cities. The public has heartily embraced curbside recycling for paper, aluminum, plastic, glass and yard clippings. Other recycling programs—batteries, electronics, paint, oil, construction debris—have been handled through drop off programs at local retailers and household hazardous waste (HHW) facilities.

As landfill costs increase and the public consciousness about the benefits of recycling grows, municipalities are looking for ways to increase recycling and make it more convenient for the public. The belief is that more items will be recycled if it is convenient and accessible to people. Therein lies the catch: Will curbside collections increase enough to make the additional cost and time investment worthwhile?

Dry-cell, household batteries, including both single-use (alkaline) and rechargeable batteries, are good candidates for successful curbside recycling. Single-use batteries, usually found in remotes, alarm clocks and toys, are not considered highly toxic, but recycling is strongly recommended and in some areas, recycling is the law. Rechargeable batteries, including Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion), Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) and others, are found in cellphones, cordless power tools, digital cameras, two-way radios and laptops. Some rechargeable batteries require special handling because they contain toxic metals and should not be part of the solid waste stream. Their terminals must be taped or the entire battery bagged. (Lead acid, wet cell, and automotive type batteries are not accepted in these programs.)

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