(December 14, 2000)
The 1996 Battery Act eased the burden on battery recycling programs by mandating national, uniform labeling requirements for Ni-Cd and certain small sealed lead-acid batteries and by making the Universal Waste Rule effective in all 50 states. The Battery Act preempts state labeling requirements for these battery types and state legislative and regulatory authority for the collection, storage, and transportation of Ni-Cd and other covered batteries. States can, however, adopt standards for battery recycling and disposal that are more stringent than existing Federal standards. States can also adopt more stringent requirements concerning the allowable mercury content in batteries. Several states have passed legislation mandating additional reductions in mercury beyond those in the Battery Act and prohibiting or restricting the disposal in MSW of batteries with the highest heavy metal content (i.e., Ni-Cd, small sealed lead-acid, and mercuric-oxide batteries). A handful of states have gone further, placing collection and management requirements on battery manufacturers and retailers to ensure that certain types of batteries are recycled or disposed of properly.
Among the states and regional organizations that have developed far-reaching legislation for battery management—beyond the scope of Federal law—are:
A Florida law, effective April 1998, requires manufacturers, importers, and marketers (excluding retail marketers) of Ni-Cd, small sealed lead-acid, and certain mercuric oxide batteries to develop and implement management programs for collecting and taking back spent batteries. Under the law, manufacturers have the sole responsibility for reclaiming or disposing of the batteries returned to them. Manufacturers are also required to accept brands other than their own, as long as the returned battery is of the same general type. The same law includes labeling requirements for rechargeable batteries and bans their disposal in the mixed solid waste stream. The law also bans the sale of mercury button cell batteries and limits the mercury content in other non-rechargeable batteries sold in the state.
Iowa has a comprehensive collection, transportation, and recycling or disposal program for Ni-Cd, household small sealed lead-acid, and mercuric-oxide batteries. Each of these battery types is banned from disposal in MSW. Manufacturers must provide a telephone number to consumers, offering information on returning batteries for recycling or proper disposal. Costs of the program may be built into the original cost of the battery.
Minnesota law requires manufacturers of rechargeable Ni-Cd batteries or products containing those batteries to take responsibility for the costs of collecting and managing waste batteries to ensure that they do not enter the waste stream. Consumers are responsible for returning spent batteries to the collection points, which include retail stores and Minnesota's household hazardous waste facilities. New Jersey
New Jersey legislation passed in 1992 bans rechargeable batteries from the municipal waste stream and requires that manufacturers take back these batteries for recycling or proper disposal. The legislation also requires that rechargeable batteries be easily removable from products and labeled as to their content and proper disposal. For batteries that aren't currently being recycled, such as alkaline batteries containing mercury, the legislation limits the content of heavy metals.
Rhode Island law prohibits the disposal of Ni-Cd, mercuric-oxide, and small sealed lead-acid batteries in municipal or commercial solid waste. Manufacturers of these battery types must ensure that a system exists for the proper collection, transportation, and processing of waste batteries (this requirement pertains only to manufacturers whose batteries are used by a government agency or an industrial, communications, or medical facility). Manufacturers must accept waste batteries returned to their facilities for proper processing.
Vermont law bans the disposal of Ni-Cd, non-consumer mercuric-oxide, and small sealed lead-acid batteries in any district or municipality where an ongoing program exists for treating these wastes. Government agencies and industrial, communications, and medical facilities may not dispose of these battery types in MSW. Battery manufacturers must implement a system for the proper collection, transportation, and processing of these battery types and include the cost of collection in the sales transaction. Manufacturers must accept waste batteries returned to their facilities.
Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association
The Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association (NEWMOA), a coalition of state waste program directors from New England and New York, has developed draft model legislation meant to reduce mercury in waste. The model legislation proposes a variety of approaches that states can use to manage mercury-containing products (such as batteries, thermometers, and certain electronic products) and wastes, with a goal of instituting consistent controls throughout the region. The proposed approaches focus on notification; product phase-outs and exemptions; product labeling; disposal bans; collection and recycling programs; and a mechanism for interstate cooperation. Bills based on the model legislation have been under consideration by legislators in New Hampshire and Maine. In April 2000, NEWMOA released a revised version of the model legislation following a series of public meetings and the collection of comments from stakeholders.
New England Governors' Conference
The New England Governors' Conference passed a resolution in September 2000 recommending, among other things, that each New England state work with its legislature to adopt mercury legislation based on the NEWMOA model (see above). The NEWMOA model legislation is meant to reduce the amount of mercury in waste through strategies such as product phase-outs, product labeling, disposal bans, and collection and recycling programs. Certain types of mercury-containing batteries are among the products targeted by the model legislation.
Most states have passed legislation prohibiting the disposal of lead-acid batteries (which are primarily automotive batteries) in landfills and incinerators and requiring retailers to accept used batteries for recycling when consumers purchase new batteries. For example, Maine has adopted legislation that requires retailers to either: 1) accept a used battery upon sale of a new battery, or 2) collect a $10 deposit upon sale of a new battery, with the provision that the deposit shall be returned to the customer if he or she delivers a used lead-acid battery within 30 days of the date of sale. This legislation is based on a model developed by the lead-acid battery industry.
Lead-acid batteries are collected for recycling through a reverse distribution system. Spent lead batteries are returned by consumers to retailers, picked up by wholesalers or battery manufacturers, and finally taken to secondary smelters for reclamation. These recycling programs have been highly successful: the nationwide recycling rate for lead-acid batteries stands at roughly 95 percent, making them one of the most widely recycled consumer products.
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