- Call2Recycle announced Tuesday a new battery safety campaign with industry partners and Bay Area MRFs and waste facilities to educate California consumers about the "hidden dangers" of improper battery disposal, particularly regarding lithium-based batteries.
- The "Avoid the Spark" campaign will focus on bringing best practices to Alameda, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo. Call2Recycle spokeswoman Dori Mendel told Waste Dive that the company is launching the inaugural campaign in California because of its progressive nature and high engagement with sustainability.
- Call2Recycle said California is an area, like other places around the country, where there is a "gap between consumer understanding and responsibility when it comes to managing batteries once they reach their end-of-life." Call2Recycle reports that 65% of waste facility fires in California in 2017 were caused by batteries.
The recycling industry has long been riddled with facility fires, with many of the most recent fires attributed to the influx of technology devices that use lithium-ion batteries — which are notorious for combusting. There were 289 reported facility fires across the United States in 2017 (not to mention fires that were not reported), many of which were likely caused by batteries. With projections showing more e-waste likely to be generated in coming years, adjusting operations to account for the likelihood of batteries in waste streams is crucial.
Mendel told Waste Dive that reducing facility fires is not only a safety priority, but also a financial one. Most MRFs are multi-million dollar investments, and just one improperly disposed battery could cause such buildings to burn to the ground, creating massive amounts of debris and wiping out hundreds of jobs. Call2Recycle wants to highlight the dangers behind battery disposal and develop a "shift in mindset" on the consumer level.
Improper disposal may be a tricky habit to break, however, which was recognized by Call2Recycle CEO Carl Smith. In a recent op-ed dubbed "Battery Recycling: The Convenience Factor," Smith noted that the "concept of convenience is critical in getting consumers to recycle." He said curbside pick-up is often the most convenient recycling option, but collecting rechargeable batteries on the curb poses particular safety risks, so drop-off locations must work to enhance the perception of their convenience.
If the Bay Area campaign — which will include a media tour, dedicated webpage and public service announcements — is successful, Call2Recycle hopes to eventually continue engaging audiences by spreading its message into other U.S. regions.