Backhaul Alaska, a new e-waste initiative, is helping the state recycle batteries. An idea from U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the initiative now receives federal grant money from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency, and recently reported that they collected and recycled over 145,000 pounds of lead-acid batteries from 45 communities last year.
A major issue in the e-waste industry is batteries, because of the danger they present. Lithium-ion batteries are known to explode when thermal runaways occur when the battery is punctured or damaged in any way. Because of this, many end of life facilities must take extra safety precautions to avoid chemical fires.
Battery recycling is the safest method of disposal for any battery, and the new initiative retrieves e-waste from across rural Alaska for proper disposal. The state has special exemption to use unlined landfills that involve minimal mitigation known as Class III landfills. This leaves the surrounding environment more susceptible to pollution when the toxic lead breaks down and seeps into drinking water. Recycling batteries prevents any chemicals from polluting the environment.
According to Reilly Kosinski, an employee of nonprofit Zender Environment that managed the Backhaul program, waste management is challenging in much of Alaska.
“In Alaska many of our small communities are roadless,” Kosinski said. “They might only have access to a barge one or two times a year. And there’s just a lack of infrastructure to deal with waste in the same manner that folks in the Lower 48 do.”
The new e-waste program trains local residents to safely consolidate hazardous batteries and other e-waste before coordinating discounted backhaul shipments on cargo ships or planes. The waste is then delivered to certified recycling facilities in the Lower 48.
Last year was the first year for the e-waste initiative, and Kosinski is hopeful that they will collect even more waste in the coming years.
IT asset disposition facilities like HOBI are another safe disposition method for batteries. ITAD enterprises collect e-waste and ensure it is properly disposed of via electronics recycling. As an R2v3, RIOS, and ISO-14001 certified IT asset management and disposition enterprise with more than 30 years of industry experience, HOBI focuses on maximizing economic return and mitigating environmental liability.
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