KJZZ Empties Old Batteries

September 13, 2013

If your house is anything like our office, you probably have a drawer full of batteries just waiting to be emptied. Our eternal struggle with this pile of metal came to a head this week.

batteries KJZZ's box of batteries we collected over many years. (Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez-KJZZ)

Construction crews are coming in to renovate our newsroom, and we really had no idea how to get rid of our old batteries.

There it is, sitting on an editor’s desk. A cardboard box overflowing ith batteries. We have all contributed to this pile for months since who knows exactly when, but no one has tried to get rid of them until now.

With the help of my colleague Nick Blumberg, we pour them into a canvas bag and walk the batteries to a nearby scale.

“Here, put that on the scale,” Blumberg told me. “20 pounds. Yeah, 20 pounds of batteries.”

Now what to do with them? After a few phone calls to the city of Tempe I was told to bring the batteries to the local Household Products Collection Center.  It looks like a drive-thru covered garage.

“I come bearing my big bag of batteries,” I told David Tavares.

Tavares oversees the Tempe recycling center. He brings me into the garage and starts digging into the bag.

“All of these right here are Energizer, Duracell, all alkaline batteries,” said Tavares as he pulls them out of the bag. “Alkaline batteries have potassium or zinc paste, and they’re not long storage. So, they have a use of maybe 30 to 60 days. Those chemicals aren’t potentially hazardous or harmful."

Tavares said these everyday alkaline batteries will be sent off to an incinerator because they cannot be re-used. As he kept digging into the bag he came across the batteries for cell and cordless phones.

There were also a bunch of silver and blue one filled with Lithium. They are double As that power our Marantz, the recording device we use to do make radio magic.

“Lithium is a battery that is paste that can be lightweight and will hold a much better charge than a nickel cadmium battery. The thing is though is that lithium is water reactive so, that’s why it’s a hazardous material because if you open up a lithium battery and we poured some water on it, it would fume and could potentially ignite,” Tavares said.

Tavares said these heavy metal batteries are recyclable and sent to manufacturers to be re-used. In 2012, Tempe collected 12,000 pounds of batteries. Tavares said every year the amount doubles.

Other Valley cities have similar recycling centers, and there are businesses that do the same like a Batteries Plus retail store in Chandler. It sells every kind all batteries you can imagine. Kiel Durmaj is the store’s product manager.  

“If someone buys a new one, we say, ‘Would you like us to recycle the old one for you?’ It’s that simple," Durmaj said.

Like the city of Tempe, Durmaj said the number of batteries brought in to the store to be recycled is increasing year after year.

“I would guess out of the 100 average customers we get per day, five to 10 of those are gonna be  people just wanting to recycle a battery,” Durmaj added.

After this little adventure, I decided to take action. I returned to my computer at KJZZ and enrolled our newsroom into a program online called Call2Recycle. We will get empty boxes for our used batteries and then we will ship them out full, and that will be a lot easier than lugging 20 pounds of heavy metal to the recycling center.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified to reflect the proper spelling of Batteries Plus and Kiel Durmaj.

Updated 9/15/2013 at 7:40 a.m.

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