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Big Four Battery Companies Plan Nationwide Recycling Launch in 2013

Duracell, Energizer, Panasonic and Rayovac – the four largest battery brands in the US – are seeking a business partner to manage a proposed nationwide collection and recycling program for household batteries, scheduled to launch next year.

Through their non-profit Corporation for Battery Recycling, the companies have issued a request for proposals seeking a “stewardship organization,” which will be responsible for compliance with all laws and regulations, and must address technical or other challenges associated with recycling of household primary batteries.

The companies founded CBR after seeing the results of a 2011 Massachusetts Institute of Technology life-cycle consumer battery analysis, which found that collection and recycling could be net environmentally positive. Since then, the companies have been working with MIT to create a voluntary recycling program where the use of recovered materials such as zinc, manganese and steel offsets the extraction impact of virgin materials.

In January, CBR launched two — in Hennepin County, Minn., and Santa Clara County, Calif. — of its six scheduled “foundation programs,” which will gather data from existing battery collection programs to help CBR develop its nationwide recycling program. The four other foundation programs are in Onondaga County, NY; San Luis Obispo County, Calif., and King and Snohomish counties, Wash.

The nation-wide program will focus on the collection of all consumer batteries and recycling of primary cylindrical and prismatic alkaline manganese, zinc carbon, and lithium batteries up to a maximum of 2 kg, and zinc air, silver oxide, alkaline manganese and lithium button/coin cells.

Preliminary research conducted by CBR indicated that consumers typically don’t differentiate between primary batteries and others, so the proposals must include a solution for other batteries (for example, rechargeables and lithium thionyl chloride) that are likely to appear in collection channels.

Proposals also need to include an education program and awareness campaign to show consumers that there is an easy, convenient way to recycle batteries.

A core tenet of the program is to have a net environmentally positive system for all batteries, measured against a baseline of environmental impact of landfilling batteries under current assumptions. CBR says proposals must include recommendations for how to continuously improve the environmental impact of batteries, using four metrics: reducing human health impacts, ecosystem quality, global warming potential and resource depletion including energy demand.

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