This month, ECOS Past President Myra Reece, Director of the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC), joined state and private sector leaders in the kickoff of a DHEC-led public education campaign on the health and environmental benefits of safely recycling household batteries, especially lithium-ion batteries (LIBs). The “Take Charge: Be Battery Smart” campaign also focuses on the choking hazard posed by small, shiny button batteries, especially for children.
“Recycling – and recycling batteries in particular – is one of the ways to a sustainable economy and healthy environment,” Reece notes.
Joining Reece at the kickoff ceremony were South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette and Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Senior Vice President of Sustainability & Advocacy Cheryl Coleman. Evette noted that responsible battery management protects individuals and contributes to the preservation of critical minerals that make up batteries. Damaged batteries can explode or catch fire, making increased consumer awareness key to limiting potential harm to people, property, and the environment, as well as minimizing service disruption to waste collection and management operations.
A 2021 EPA report found at least 245 fires at 64 solid waste facilities between 2013 and 2020 likely caused by lithium metal or LIBs. LIBs store a large amount of energy relative to their size and weight and do not contain certain toxic chemicals found in other rechargeable batteries like lead or cadmium. However, they are easily punctured and can cause fires in garbage trucks, recycling centers, and landfills, potentially injuring essential workers and responding firefighters.
LIBs may be found in cell phones, laptops, hearing aids, e-cigarettes, handheld gaming devices, wireless headphones, e-bikes, golf carts, and other devices.
In South Carolina, residents may access drop-off sites at stores such as The Home Depot, Best Buy, Staples, and Lowe’s via the Call2Recycle program, via Batteries Plus, and at some local household hazardous material collection programs.