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Battery recycling program collects 71 lbs

ALICIA SMITH | Friday, February 5, 2010

Battery recycling is a small way students can help the environment, Dan Woods, compliance officer and creator of the battery recycling program at Saint Mary’s College, said.

On Feb. 1, students received a campus-wide e-mail detailing the number of batteries that the program had collected throughout the 2009-2010 academic year.

After years of individual students, faculty and staff members collecting and recycling batteries independently, Woods decided it was time to make a change. On Sept. 23, 2009, he started the first campus-wide recycling program for batteries.

“The College never had a program for recycling batteries formally,” Woods said. “We found a need that enough people were asking about battery recycling that the College should have a program for battery recycling. It seemed to be if there was enough interest in batteries then a battery program would sort of take off.”

Woods didn’t stop at just collecting and recycling rechargeable batteries though. He wanted to offer the option of alkaline battery recycling as well. According to Woods, alkaline batteries are commonly not recycled due to the lack of profit for battery recycling agencies.

“We found with alkaline batteries it was perfectly legal to put them into the regular waste stream and then they would be taken to the landfill,” he said. “At Saint Mary’s, we wanted to go a little bit farther and keep all the batteries out of the landfill because there’s different hazardous metals, heavy metals that might get into the environment that may not be illegal to do so now but it just wasn’t a good practice.”

Woods distributed five-gallon buckets in a variety of buildings around campus to act as drop-off sites for the used batteries. The program collects alkaline, rechargeable, button and nine-volt batteries and sends them to Batteries Plus, a local store, which sells new batteries and also collects used ones for recycling.

Woods said he started working on the logistics of the program in 2008 but was unable to find a company willing to accept alkaline batteries for a low enough cost. In September 2008, Woods contacted the corporate office of Batteries Plus and inquired about alkaline recycling.

“There was very few options as far as alkaline batteries for recycling,” Woods said. “I found several different vendors who could take my batteries. But then I thought, well, wouldn’t it be neat if Batteries Plus had a recycling program for alkaline batteries.”

After the company began accepting alkalines, Woods set the program in motion by placing drop-off sites in nine buildings on campus. Woods said each month he collects and counts the amount of batteries that were dropped off. According to Woods, the first shipment of batteries that were sent to Batteries Plus contained 71 pounds, or 902 single use, rechargeable or button batteries.

Woods said he hopes that the program will eventually be taken over by students.
“One of my goals is for the students to take over the program because I think it’s a manageable recycling model that they can do while they’re here and they can see an immediate result of their efforts,” Woods said.

He also extended an invitation for off-campus students to take part in the program. Woods said it was important to get involved and recycle to help the environment.
“Any thing you can do is better than doing nothing,” he said.

Drop-off sites can be found in LeMans Hall lobby, Holy Cross Hall lobby, Regina Hall lobby, McCandless Hall lobby, the Student Center Information Desk, the IT Helpdesk, the Science Building, the Maintenance Building and in the Building Services Building.

Woods said the program is currently working on a Web site to track the progress of the program. With the Web site, students would be able to see first hand how their batteries would make a difference, he said.