Solutions to dispose batteries may include fee

April 5, 2010 7:26:51 PM PDT
When your AA batteries go dead in your remote control, what do you do with them? Odds are, you throw them in your garbage can and risk polluting our ground water. Now some state legislators want to change that.

One estimate shows 500 million batteries are sold each year in California with most ending up in landfills. Fewer than one percent are recycled.

"Kind of makes me feel a little guilty that I just find a way to get rid of these things and not know what to do with them," battery user Cindy Thames said.

Lawmakers are looking at a proposal that forces battery manufacturers to create a recycling program, which will inevitably mean tacking on a fee.

It's up to the companies to decide how.

"They can put a fee on their product that can be visibly passed onto the consumers or they can internalize it in the product price, but either way, the consumer is going to pay," Heidi Sanborn from the California Product Stewardship Council.

The author, State Senator Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, says putting the financial burden on battery users is more fair than the current way, which relies on general taxes and garbage rates.

"At great cost to our local cities and to people who pay for garbage pick-up, we deal with it in that way," she said.

Rechargeable batteries are actually the most dangerous when they're thrown away, but opponents say the majority in use are the less toxic alkaline batteries.

"Single use batteries do not cause environmental or public health concerns. There is no lead, cadmium, there is no mercury in these batteries," Gino DiCaro from the California Manufacturers & Technology Association said.

Californians tend to be environmentally conscious, so many don't mind paying a recycling fee, but there are those who want to leave it up to each individual.

"No, I think we should just keep doing it on our own. We have enough fees," fee opposer Ken Muller said.

Canada has a similar program, and it adds one to three cents per battery for recycling. If Californians use 500 million a year, that's up to $15 million out of consumer pockets.


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