|Don't throw me away!|
As Earth Hour approaches, preparations for the Barrie Green Party’s fifth annual Earth Hour Super-Drive heat up. Once again, this event combines clothing & food donation drives for Barrie’s Free Clothing Centre and Food Bank with an opportunity for you to bring your old electronics or other e-waste in and get cash back for it. Yes, anything with a battery, plug, or chip can be recycled (through our partner GreenGo) instead of going to landfill, and you get paid by the pound for your trouble. As usual, it’s the Saturday morning of Earth Hour (March 29th 10 am to noon), in the parking lot off Toronto Street behind 110 Dunlop St. W.
Earth Hour aims to make us mindful of our energy use’s ecological footprint. Even as we unplug, more and more of our world runs on battery power, and those batteries become a real problem once used up and discarded. If you visit websites of major battery companies like Duracell or Energizer, they will tell you batteries can’t be recycled and you should throw them out with your garbage. Yet Barrie’s own waste calendar urges you not to do that, and even more importantly, batteries can indeed be recycled, right here in Ontario!
Raw Materials Company (RMC) in Port Colborne has actually been recycling alkaline batteries since 1989, using their own mechanical process that separates the batteries into components, some of which (zinc, manganese, potassium) are “upcycled” as agricultural fertilizer and some of which (steel and other metals) are recycled back into the metal supply stream, with the remainder (cardboard and plastic) being used to generate process energy to reduce carbon footprint.
And the connection is even more local than that – recently I spoke with executives at RMC’s local partner LEI Electronics Inc, headquartered right in here in Barrie, who have proudly pioneered and patented the Eco Alkalinestm battery brand. Although it’s still best to recycle them, these batteries are completely free of toxins like cadmium, lead, or mercury (not even trace amounts) so are harmless if they end up in landfill. And that’s important, because apparently only about 2% of batteries currently make it into the recycling process.
As partner & VP Lionel Lalonde explained, LEI’s passion for the environment goes much deeper. Their non-toxic battery line is certified as carbon-neutral, and they use 80% recycled material in all of their packaging. They have done everything they can to go the extra step and make a sustainable battery product, from factory to shelf to disposal, while keeping their prices in line with the market and their battery quality equal to the leading brands, those efforts earning them LEED certification.
Sadly, the two leading brands have almost a strangle-hold on retail shelves, so if you want these green batteries, you’ll need to order them online for now. But Eco Alkalinestm have seen much greater success at the institutional level, being used by governments, colleges & universities, theme parks, the Canadian Forces.
Unfortunately, there is a chance that Ontario’s battery recycling might be captured by a project of the major suppliers, resulting in our batteries going to a smelter in the US instead of the cleaner and more thorough process invented right here. It’s all up to Waste Diversion Ontario, our provincially-mandated stewardship organization, so be sure to let your elected officials know that you want batteries fully mechanically recycled in Ontario instead of shipped to the US to be burned and melted into slag.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.
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