Look it up; “National” Battery Day is February 18. Although there is no mention of it in the Congressional Record, and no one really knows how it got started, Battery Day is a thing. Some suggest the date was chosen because it is the birthdate of Italian physicist, Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the electric battery. Born in 1745, we get the word “volt” from his name to describe electric potential.
Batteries Cut the Cord
Batteries are a critical part of powering our everyday life, yet we rarely give them a second thought. What would we do without basic battery operated devices like flashlights, radios and watches, automotive vehicles and television remotes. Don’t even think about the inconvenience and the withdrawal that would certainly ensue, if we did not have mobile phones, laptop computers, tablets, handheld game devices and other toys. Batteries are freedom!
Batteries’ Dark Side
So, Battery Day is a time to recognize the device that energizes the things that make our life more convenient and worth living. Battery operated devices often light our way and brighten our day, but if handled improperly or disposed of improperly, batteries can have a dark side.
Batteries can be harmful to the environment. They are made from a variety of different chemicals and metals including alkaline, silver-oxide, nickel, metal-hydride, lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, lithium-ion, and zinc-carbon. When thrown in the regular trash, batteries decay in landfill sites and could leak into the groundwater, which pollutes soil and water in the community.
Properly disposing of batteries not only prevents pollution, it also conserves landfill space and it saves metals and minerals that can be recycled and used in new products. Proper battery preparation for recycling is also essential to prevent fires while in transit, since batteries rubbing together create the risk of sparks and fire. This puts waste management employees in danger.
Scott McDonald, the Solid Waste Division Recycling Program Manager, stresses the importance of proper battery disposal, “It’s important that you don’t place batteries in your regular recycling bin, or trash can. Residents should take them to a battery collection site for proper handling.”
Preparation can also be critical. “When recycling rechargeable and single-use batteries rated nine (9) volts or higher, it is important to tape the terminals to reduce the chance of fire during transport or at the processing facility”, notes MacDonald. Simply place masking tape over the positive terminal of each battery, or return it to the original packaging for safe in home storage and transport. Use a plastic pail or cardboard box rather than a metal can for storage.
Battery Day Observance
For most people, every day is a battery day, so proper handling and disposal are important. Battery Day is an opportunity to celebrate the happiness and respect the potential hazards that batteries bring to our life.
Prince William County residents can bring various types of household batteries and lead acid automotive batteries to the Prince William County Landfill or the Balls Ford Road Compost Facility (pictured) every day.
In addition to the two county facilities, a number of retail outlets also make battery recycling convenient for many types of batteries. Home Depot, Lowe’s, Best Buy, Staples, or battery specialty stores like Batteries Plus and Interstate Battery all have battery-recycling programs. Mom’s Organic Market has an extensive recycling center that accepts a wide range of battery types. Earth 911 and Call2Recycle are other great online resources for battery recycling drop off locations, and battery recycling mail-in program options.
As we celebrate the power of batteries and the opportunity to disengage and connect, to tune in and unplug…. let’s stay in tune with earth’s needs, make appropriate waste disposal, and recycling choices every day.
For more information on how to recycle in Prince William County, visit www.pwcgov.org/trashandrecycling.