Battery recycling programs have been active for more than 20 years in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Extended producer responsibility programs and other product stewardship initiatives have helped governing bodies eliminate waste and decrease their environmental footprint.
As the first province to adopt all-battery recycling in Canada, British Columbia (BC) has been an example to jurisdictions around the world. The program has evolved over the last four years and offers a good case study on what happens when rechargeable and single-use (non-rechargeable) battery collections are combined and how these programs can help drive battery recycling across Canada.
BC Launches the First All-Battery Recycling Program
The Canadian commitment to battery recycling dates back almost two decades. Battery manufacturers began voluntarily offering no-fee rechargeable battery recycling in Canada in 1997 through Call2Recycle, the leading North American battery recycling organization. British Columbia’s Ministry of the Environment (MOE) moved one step further in 2010, when BC became the first province to require the recycling of hazardous waste–including both rechargeable and single-use batteries–throughout the province. Although 60% of the batteries collected in BC are primary and most are considered non-toxic, the BC government considered it a good environmental stewardship policy to keep all batteries out of landfills and repurpose as much of the recycled materials as possible into new products.
The MOE mandate changed the landscape of battery recycling in BC forever. Consumers could now recycle both rechargeable and primary batteries under 5 kilograms at public recycling depots and at retail. In one fell swoop, this made recycling batteries much easier for consumers and businesses across BC. The mandate had additional benefits: reducing the need to mine for metals reclaimed from recycled batteries, while supporting jobs and driving innovation in BC’s recycling, waste management and processing industry.
With a proven track record of environmentally-sound battery recycling, Call2Recycle® was selected by BC as the official battery recycling stewardship program. The Call2Recycle program is funded by battery and battery-powered product manufacturers to manage the safe collection and recycling of batteries. The collection network includes collectors, transporters, sorters and processors. Call2Recycle adheres to the highest standards of environmental recycling and waste management.
“British Columbia is a leader in battery recycling thanks to a forward-thinking policy by its government and the ongoing support of consumers across the province,” said Joe Zenobio, executive director, Call2Recycle Canada, Inc. “BC was one of the first provinces to recognize that recycling will thrive if regulations and programs make it as easy as possible for consumers to recycle.”
Key Factors Driving BC Success
Since the all-battery program went into effect five years ago, BC has achieved remarkable success. Why? Simply, consumer convenience. One-stop recycling eliminates consumer confusion over how and where to recycle batteries. Consumers no longer need to sort batteries before dropping them off at various locations. All-battery recycling makes it easier for consumers to do the right thing—keep more batteries out of the waste stream and landfills. Another benefit? Collections increase for both single-use and rechargeable battery types.
Another factor in BC’s success is accessibility. BC has the highest accessibility rate of all the provinces, with 95% of households having access to a Call2Recycle public collection site within 15 kilometers of their home. The Call2Recycle network includes more than 1,600 collection sites including public depots, government buildings and retailers. Offering shoppers an easy way to ‘drop and shop’, retailers include well-known brands such as Best Buy, Canadian Tire, Future Shop, The Home Depot, Rona, Home Hardware, London Drugs, Lowe’s, Staples and The Source.
“One of BC’s secret weapons is its sheer number of collection points,” said Zenobio. “Whether it’s a public depot, municipal building or retailer, having access to convenient drop-off locations only helps increase the amount of batteries being collected across British Columbia, and across Canada.”
Retailers participate for a variety of reasons—to improve customer service, support community recycling or attract customers. Research has shown that BC benefits from its voluntary retail commitment with greater collections. When compared to US jurisdictions – some of which mandate retailers that sell batteries to also collect them – BC’s voluntary program produces better results.
Another major factor in BC’s success has been education. Call2Recycle uses a wide variety of methods to educate consumers and businesses on the need to recycle, including special events, celebrity spokespeople, tradeshows, point-of-sale promotions, online/print advertising, an online site locator, a 1-800-number and flyers. Youth programs including an EcoKids school curriculum developed with Earth Day Canada and sponsorship of the BC Green Games science competition with Vancouver’s Science World museum educate the next generation about the importance of battery recycling. These promotional programs target a diverse group of potential recyclers by providing information for action.
BC’s Continued Growth
BC’s collection results are concrete proof that the addition of single-use batteries to BC’s program in 2010 has driven an increase in overall battery collections. During the last six months of 2010, BC collected 95,000 kilograms of single-use and 26,000 kilograms of rechargeable batteries. By 2014, this number had more than tripled to 359,940 kilograms for single-use batteries and almost four times to 97,492 kilograms for rechargeables.
Combined battery collection results show a jump from 15,000 kilograms of rechargeable batteries collected in 2009, to 121,000 kilograms in 2010, which includes six months of single-use collections. In 2011, the first full year of collections, collections increased almost 2.5 times to 358,769 kilograms. In 2013, that number increased to 401, 541 kilograms of collections for the year. 2014 was a record year, reaching a collection milestone of 457, 432 kilograms of batteries diverted from BC landfill.
BC Stays at the Forefront of Change
As we look to the future, one question remains. Can these collection results be sustained? Can other provinces learn from BC’s success?
The answer is a resounding “yes.”
As BC continues to look for new ways to reduce its environmental impact, the province should continue to lead in battery recycling. Consumer and retailer commitment, education and accessibility provide a strong foundation for continued growth. With over 20 stewardship programs managing hundreds of products, British Columbia leads Canada with environmentally progressive policies.
The success of the BC program illustrates that all-battery recycling programs are a win-win for both consumers and government. With an emphasis on improving the consumer experience, improving convenience and educating the next generation, these programs will help everyone do the right thing to protect Canada’s natural environment for future generations.Share