How many times have your replaced your device’s batteries and then been at a lost on what to do with the old pair? It isn’t uncommon knowledge that batteries should be recycled — it’s just that many consumers don’t know how to recycle these devices and in their confusion, resign to simply tossing them in the trash or recycling bins that do not accept the material. A recent survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Call2Recycle has developed a better understanding of consumer recycling behaviors. The poll surveyed 2,020 U.S. adults and found that a majority of Americans are “wishful thinkers” that toss non-recyclable materials in with recyclable materials and assume that someone or machine will sort their trash out of the recycling stream for them.
“Our recently commissioned survey conducted online by The Harris Poll revealed key insights regarding consumer recycling behaviors. From this data pulse, we can see how ‘wishful recycling’ is impacting the recycling landscape and trickling down to consumer battery management. The findings reinforce the need for continued consumer education and awareness to positively impact recycling practices,” said Linda Gabor, executive vice president of external relations for Call2Recycle, Inc., in a statement.
Many consumers place items into their curbside bins, knowing that these materials will not be recycled. The research showed more than two in five Americans who have curbside recycling programs (42 percent) have put plastics bags in, about one in three (31 percent) placed empty greasy pizza boxes in and close to one in five (16 percent) have put batteries in curbside recycling receptacles. While motivated to help the planet, these non-accepted materials end up contaminating other recyclables, which can lead to safety hazards at material recovery facilities (MRFs). As a result, people and property can be at a risk.
Roughly three in 10 Americans do not believe single-use (30 percent) or rechargeable batteries (27 percent) are recyclable and another three in 10 are not sure at all (27 and 29 percent, respectively). These results spotlight a gap between consumer education and battery recycling. With more battery recycling awareness, the goal is for consumers to be informed and change behaviors.
Knowledge is a powerful driver of behavior, especially when it comes to adopting new habits. According to the survey, only about a third of Americans who’ve owned no longer functioning single-use (34 percent) and rechargeable (39 percent) batteries typically recycle them and those aged 18 to 34 are likely to hoard them (eight percent store single-use versus three percent ages 65+; 11 percent store rechargeable versus four percent ages 45+). These results highlight the need to break the battery hoarder habit and engage specific generations.
Based on survey feedback, the leading reason no-longer-functioning batteries get stored is lack of knowledge on proper disposal methods. Nearly two in five Americans who store no-longer-working batteries (39 percent) do so because they are unsure of what to do with them; only about a quarter (28 percent) are holding them for a future recycling trip. This is another example of needing to break the battery hoarder habit, especially as it relates to how those battery types are stored. Batteries should be kept in non-metal containers with their positive terminals covered by non-conductive tape or individually bagged. They should not be stored for more than a year.
The findings reveal that there is still much work to be done to move the needle on consumer battery recycling. Engaging wishful recyclers and increasing educational outreach efforts can help consumers become responsible recyclers. With additional knowledge, consumers can make more informed decisions on their battery habits and impact on the planet.