Caring for Creation
Uh oh, the tv remote isn’t working, time to change the batteries. You get new ones and put them in. What do you do with the old ones? Throw them away? Save them up in a bag or bucket for special handling?
For years, Hope Church has made this decision a lot easier by offering to collect used batteries to recycle them. Steve Griffore worked at Herman Miller where he could take the batteries for free to have them professionally recycled by Comprenew. When Steve retired earlier this year, the batteries could no longer go there. Thus we found ourselves confronted with a dilemma. Either we would pay for recycling through a certified organization like Comprenew, or we would give the batteries for free to a company whose practices we knew nothing about. Faced with a limited budget, the value of recycling batteries needed more research.
In 1996 single use household batteries stopped having mercury in them, making it safe for them to be disposed in landfills. However, the batteries contain resources like zinc, manganese, plastic, and copper that could go back into the production of new products. Deconstructing batteries to salvage these materials is a very difficult process performed in few locations. From a creation care perspective, the question is how many resources are used and pollution created during the salvaging of resources from recycled batteries compared to during extraction of “new” resources.
In the 2011 study Life Cycle Impacts Of Alkaline Batteries With A Focus On End‐Of‐Life, researchers at MIT determined that the emissions associated with transporting batteries for recycling, can become a significant amount depending on the battery recycling infrastructure in proximity. For example, how close is a drop off location, is that location an extra trip in the car and, how far is that location from the salvaging facility. Sometimes the amount of resources used to get batteries to recycling ends up offsetting the amount of resources saved by recycling.
After analysis, we determined Hope Church is well positioned for battery recycling. Congregants bring batteries are not making an extra trip. When the bucket is full, we take the bucket to a collection point which pools more batteries before taking them across the state to relatively close Brighton. Thus we determined to pursue continuation of battery recycling. Steve was able to work out an arrangement with Comprenew that allows us to give them our batteries for free, so the only cost involved is the transportation, which Steve generously donates to do. If you have any thoughts on this decision, please let me know, you can email at email@example.com. We hope to expand the opportunities at Hope Church to collect items for recycle or reuse. If you have any ideas, please send them my way!
~Joe Arevalo, Caring for Creation Coordinator