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Environment matters

Spotlight on Batteries Saturday 17 December Whiti Markets

We rely on batteries to power everything from remote controls to our toothbrush. If you stop for a minute and look around your home or office, you might, like me, be uncomfortably surprised by the number of batteries living amongst your belongings – TV, radio, speakers, computer games, kid’s toys, pet toys, torches, smoke alarms, garage door remotes, car keys, calculators, mobile phones, DIY tools, hearing aids, fit bits, Garmin sport trackers, watches. The list goes on…

I did a quick tally and calculate that our household of two has replaced 7 batteries so far this year – which is less than the Ministry for Environment (MfE) estimate of 8-10 batteries per person per year, but still sobering. At 4.9 million people in Aotearoa that is a mindboggling number of batteries reaching end of life each year, isn’t it!

Currently in NZ there are very few recycling drop off points for batteries. That is because we have no recycling facilities here in NZ, and they need to be shipped offshore to a reputable internationally approved recycler in countries like Australia or Japan. NZ exporters must have a coveted Government approved BASEL licence to handle such waste. As a result, less than 0.2% of all batteries consumed here in NZ are recycled.

Batteries represent a huge part of our landfill waste and are among the most hazardous items due to the chemicals within them. They contain toxic, heavy metals and highly flammable ingredients. Metals like Nickel, Mercury, Cadmium and Lead leach out into our soils and water, and lithium batteries (smaller round button like batteries and those found in mobile phones and laptops) can spontaneously combust and have caused major fires.

NZ Fire and Emergency reported there were 25 fires during 2018 caused by batteries or battery charging devices. One fire started because someone put their laptop in their recycling bin, and a forklift driver at the recycling centre in Thames ran over it. In 2019 at the same recycling centre, over 50 fire fighters battled a large toxic plastic blaze all through the night- also caused by a lithium ion battery. These are real stories, close to home.

Diverting batteries from landfill means less waste, keeping harmful substances out of the environment, recovery of natural resources and avoidance of virgin metal production. For these reasons, recycling your batteries is one of the best things you, your school or business can do for the environment.

What can you do?

The very best thing we can all do is to reduce the number of gadgets and toys you buy that require batteries. Beyond that, once your batteries have been used and need to be disposed of, store them in a non-metallic and non-flammable container and away from flammable material (like paper or cloth). Fire is the main hazard with battery storage. So, you will need to carefully consider any fire risks when storing your batteries.

Keep them lined up side by side, so the contact points can’t touch each other or brush up against anything that’s metallic or conductive.

Used batteries may still contain residual charge that can create a spark, leading to a potential fire hazard. Therefore, it is suggested that you tape both the positive and negative ends of your batteries before placing them in your storage container.

Now you’re ready to recycle

There are a few national Battery Recycling Schemes already up and running, such as at Century Yuasa Battery centres (larger lead acid batteries, which we can’t collect) and Bunnings stores (small batteries for hand held devices). However, Bunnings are not local, which means you’ll be packing your batteries and taking them on your road trip to Hamilton or beyond.

Wāhi Tukurua/ Place of Recycling on the other hand is local, run by your community for your community. We are on a mission to:

· Help build a cleaner New Zealand for future generations

· Prevent harm to humans and wildlife

· Protect the environment

· Conserve natural resources

· Reduce the amount of waste to landfill.

Based on these goals, our next E-waste @ The Market collection, will focus on batteries. On Saturday 17 December we will accepting household single use and rechargeable batteries, such as: AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, 6V and Power tool batteries and Button cell batteries.

We cannot accept lead acid batteries, car batteries, products with embedded batteries at the E-waste @ The Market stall. To find out more about Wāhi Tukurua’s work, recycling generally and our future events, check out our facebook page and join the mailing list for our regular newsletter.

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