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Recycling at UMass Medical School is about more than just paper and plastic. Disposing of rechargeable batteries improperly can release harmful chemicals into the air or water supply, posing health threats to humans and the environment. A new program, operated by the nonprofit organization Call2Recycle, being rolled out at the University Campus promises to streamline the recycling of rechargeable batteries for our academic health sciences center and to provide a useful second life for these items.
In the past, the Environmental Health & Safety Department would collect discarded rechargeable batteries from each department, sort and package them for transport, and then send them out as part of the campus’ universal waste stream, a category of waste materials not designated as hazardous waste, but containing mercury, lead, cadmium, copper and other substances hazardous to human and environmental health that need to be prevented from free release into the environment. Properly disposing of these batteries is a labor intensive and costly effort that often resulted in the materials going to a treatment facility and not necessarily being reused.
By using Call2Recycle’s pre-labeled boxes, departments can collect and mail in their old rechargeable batteries for recycling at no cost. The collected batteries are then recycled into new batteries and other stainless steel products. Hazardous materials that can be re-used, such as gold and silver, are reclaimed while any remaining hazardous materials are treated properly for disposal.
“It is a really innovative idea for all its simplicity,” said UMMS Chemical and Laboratory Safety Officer Jo-Ann Ranslow, who coordinates the battery recycling program. “For departments that want to participate, we’ll set them up with their first collection box and provide training for the department point-of-contact. Once the box is full, they just fold it up, hand it off to UPS and Call2Recycle will send them a new box.”
Pediatrics, Program in Gene Function and Expression, Emergency Medicine, Psychiatry, Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Family Medicine, Public Safety and OB/GYN are among the dozen departments already signed up for the program. For departments with heavy battery use, Ranslow says they can request multiple boxes, which have a 50 lbs weight limit.
By reducing the amount of waste leaving the campus as universal waste, the University will also be saving money. From September 2009 through May 2011, University Campus departments amassed 9,744 pounds of used batteries, which were shipped to waste processing facilities at a cost to the Medical School.
Call2Recycle is funded by product manufacturers with the goal of providing free, environmentally-sound recycling of rechargeable batteries and cell phones. Every time you buy a new cell phone, laptop computer, portable power tool, camera or other electronic device powered by a rechargeable battery, the manufacturers of those batteries use a portion of the purchase price to fund Call2Recycle’s free program.
First rolled out in health care settings in 1996, the Call2Recyle program 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:
For more information about the program, please visit www.call2recycle.org/. (Note: Alkaline batteries are not accepted by Call2Recylce and may be disposed of in the regular waste stream.)
Departments interested in signing up for the Call2Recyle program should contact the Environmental Health & Safety Department at 508-856-3985.