Charging-up the Battery Recycling Program

In just the first six weeks of operation, 542 pounds of old rechargeable batteries have been collected and sent on their way to a new purposeful life through a recycling program being rolled out across the UMMS campus. 

The program is coordinated by the school’s Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) Department, in partnership with Call2Recycle, a non-profit group funded by battery manufacturers to provide free, environmentally-sound, recycling of rechargeable batteries. 

“This is a great program, and after just a few weeks we are pleased with the response we are seeing,” said Jo-Ann Ranslow, chemical and laboratory safety officer at EH&S, and a member of the school’s Sustainability Committee. “We are hopeful that as more departments participate in the program, we will see the recycling numbers increase significantly over the school year.” 

If rechargeable batteries are improperly disposed of, they can release harmful chemicals into the air or water supply. Because of these risks, the past practice at UMass Medical School has been for EH&S to collect batteries from each department, sort and package them for transport, and then pay to send them out as part of the campus’ universal waste stream for proper disposal. 

The Call2Recycle model changes all that. Using pre-labeled boxes (provided free by Call2Reycle) school departments can collect and mail in their own used rechargeable batteries for recycling at no cost to the school. The collected batteries are recycled by companies in the United States and Canada to be made into new batteries and other products. Metals that can be re-used, such as gold and silver, are reclaimed, while any remaining hazardous materials are treated properly for disposal. 

To pay for its program, Call2Recycle receives a portion of the purchase price every time a consumer buys a new cell phone, laptop computer, portable power tool, camera or other electronic device powered by a rechargeable battery. “This is a totally transparent program,” said Melissa Lucas, sustainability and energy efficiency manager at UMMS. “Call2Recyle is a non-profit group that takes environmental stewardship seriously. All their processes are public, so we know that these batteries are being handled properly and the materials reused or recycled to the maximum extent.” 

So far, 15 battery recycling boxes have been placed in six UMass Medical School departments that have signed up for the program. As of this writing, the Program in Molecular Medicine is leading the campus in the number of Call2Recycle boxes deployed. “It’s an easy program, and we hope to see many more offices and departments come on board,” Ranslow said. 

Call2Recyle accepts a wide-range of rechargeable batteries found in items ranging from personal cameras and cell phones, to medical equipment such as infusion pumps and respirators. Accepted batteries include: 
• All types of cell phones are accepted regardless of size, make, model or age. 
• Rechargeable Batteries (weighing less than 11 lbs/ 5 kg each): 
     o Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd ) 
     o Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) 
     o Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) 
     o Nickel Zinc (Ni-Zn) 
     o Small Sealed Lead (SSLA/Pb) 

(Note: Alkaline batteries are not accepted by Call2Recylce and may be disposed of in the regular waste stream. UMMS is now reviewing the collection options for alkaline batteries, in hopes of offering a recycling program for these batteries in 2012.) 

Departments interested in signing up for the Call2Recyle program should contact the Environmental Health & Safety Department at 508-856-3985.