Battery Recycling is a Capital Idea in BC Region
British Columbia’s Capital Regional District (CRD) is cleaning up. Since 1973, this regional government body has been responsible for solid waste management of 13 municipalities on southern Vancouver Island, three electoral areas in rural areas including nearby Gulf Islands and sections of 22 First Nations traditional territories. The CRD manages a residential curbside recycling program for all municipalities, as well as depot recycling in rural areas.
The CRD owns and operates Hartland landfill, the only municipal solid waste landfill in the region. The Hartland facility serves as the hub for multi-purpose waste disposal and diversion for the region’s 375,000 residents.
In 2005, Hartland began providing residents with a “one-stop” drop-off location for virtually all of their household hazardous waste. “We noticed that residents were bringing items to the landfill that we couldn’t accept. But we didn’t want to see them driving away and dropping them in a ditch or pouring them down the drain,” says Wendy Dunn, Program Coordinator, Environmental Resource Management. “The decision was made to create a full-spectrum hazardous waste drop-off at the Hartland transfer station. Essentially we take everything marked explosive, corrosive, poison or flammable, except ammunition, flares and medication.” The comprehensive program is leading edge in British Columbia.
Much of the material collected at the Hartland facility, including household batteries, never enters the regional landfill. The public drop off area at Hartland serves as a transfer station where materials are sorted and sent off for recycling or to specialized facilities for safe management.
When the Hartland site began accepting batteries and other hazardous waste, “We did a direct mailer across the region to every household. We were getting batteries by the barrel because we were taking them for free,” says Dunn. The program was quite costly to manage however, due to the expense of properly processing the batteries. When BC’s battery stewardship program was established, the CRD was quick to join Call2Recycle’s free program. “There’s definitely a financial benefit for our regional district to using the Call2Recycle program,” says Dunn.
The CRD initially used Call2Recycle’s box program, but with the volume of batteries it received, staff recognized that greater efficiencies could be achieved. “We were able to fill numerous boxes a day and we saw an opportunity to do things more effectively if we could ship larger volumes at once,” Dunn explains. The CRD became one of Call2Recycle’s first bulk shippers of batteries. Today, Call2Recycle’s efficient bulk shipment program is used by several high volume battery generators.
One of the challenges Hartland staff continued to face was managing the large quantity of lithium-ion batteries they received. The hazardous waste attendants were laying out duct tape and attaching the small batteries, commonly used in watches and hearing aids, to the tape by hand. Then they came up with an innovative alternative to the time-consuming process. “One of our attendants had a vacuum pack machine at home so he tested it on the batteries. It looked good and seemed to work well. We brought it forward to Call2Recycle and, with their approval, that’s what we do now,” says Dunn. The tiny lithium-ion batteries are vacuum packed in sheets before sending for processing.
Ease, Education and Encouragement
The CRD waste management program strives to make it as easy as possible for the region’s residents to responsibly manage their materials. Through its online portal, myrecyclopedia.ca, residents can enter any item they wish to dispose of in the search bar and are shown a list of locations where the item can be brought for recycling, as well as information about additional items the location accepts, to encourage more recycling activity. Myrecyclopedia is unique as it also provides information on how to reduce and reuse products, as well as providing their environmental story.
“Everything we do links to myrecyclopedia.ca. The Hartland landfill has a limited lifespan so part of our strategy is to divert materials from the landfill to optimize that space. Myrecyclopedia is the gateway for people to help us do that,” Dunn explains. Another key element of the CRD’s work is to educate the public about waste management. In June 2016, the CRD held its biennial Hartland Open House, where the public gets a behind-the-scenes look at the landfill and learns more about waste reduction, composting, water conservation and stewardship programs. The event attracts residents of all ages.
It is efforts like these, and the CRD’s commitment to making it easy for residents to do the right thing with their waste and used batteries that earned the CRD Call2Recycle’s Leader in Sustainability Award in 2015. Thanks to their innovative approaches, much of the region’s waste will be successfully diverted for years to come.Share