JOHNSTOWN - On Dec. 5, it became illegal to dispose of most rechargeable batteries in landfills in New York state.
As part of the law, consumers have the option of dropping those batteries off at retail stores taking part in recycling them.
While retailers may have just gotten started collecting and recycling rechargeable batteries this year, Fulton County has been doing it for three years.
Dianne Woske, recycling coordinator for Fulton County, shows rechargeable batteries and a cellphone Tuesday collected at the Fulton?County Electronic?Collection site at the landfill on Mud Road in the town of Johnstown.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor
Dianne Woske, recycling coordinator for Fulton County, said the county's Department of Solid Waste has been running a recycling program for rechargeable batteries and cell phones since 2009. By utilizing a free collection program, the county has been able to recycle more than 880 pounds of rechargeable batteries and cellphones.
"It's the easiest program in the world [to run]" Woske said.
According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation website - www.dec.ny.gov - the New York State Rechargeable Battery Recycling Act was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Dec. 10, 2010. The law requires manufacturers of covered rechargeable batteries to collect and recycle the batteries statewide in a manufacturer-funded program at no cost to consumers. There was a concern that potentially toxic metals - such as lead and cadmium - in some rechargeable batteries could end up in landfills.
"Since many rechargeable batteries contain toxic metals that can be released into the environment when managed improperly, this program is a good example of product stewardship among consumers, retailers and battery manufacturers," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a news release. "Valuable metals from rechargeable batteries can be recovered for reuse instead of ending up in the trash."
Rechargeable batteries covered by the law include: nickel cadmium, sealed lead, lithium ion, nickel metal hydride and any other dry cell rechargeable batteries weighing less than 25 pounds.
Woske said the program is fairly simple: People drop off rechargeable batteries at the transfer stations - a permit is not required to do this. When the bucket the batteries and cell phones are kept in gets full, it is brought to the Electronic Collection site at the Solid Waste Department, 847 Mud Road. The materials are sorted, individually bagged, and placed in a box, which is shipped - at no cost to the county - to a recycling facility that can appropriately handle the contents. Taking care of the rechargeable batteries and cell phones may take an extra hour or two a month, Woske said.
The program the county participates in is named Call2Recycle.
According to the program's website, www.call2recycle.org, Call2Recycle is operated by the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation.
"Call2Recycle is funded by product manufacturers across the globe committed to environmentally-sound recycling of rechargeable batteries and cell phones," the website said. "These manufacturers place the RBRC recycling seal on their rechargeable products and batteries, informing users that they are recyclable."
There has been a small but steady uptick in the number of rechargeable batteries and cellphones recycled by Fulton County since it started taking part in the program in 2009.
In 2009, the county recycled 260 pounds of rechargeable batteries and cell phones. In 2010, it recycled 280 pounds. In 2011, it recycled 344 pounds.
Woske said those numbers are small compared to what the landfill is used to dealing with. For example, in 2010 the county had 3,200 tons of material sold for recycling.
According to the Call2Recycle website, other places people can recycle their rechargeable batteries in the area include: the Radio Shack stores in Johnstown and Amsterdam; the Lowe's and Home Depot in Amsterdam; and the Lake Pleasant Transfer Station.
Judi Beeler, the confidential secretary for the Montgomery-Otsego-Schoharie Solid Waste Management?Authority, said the authority accepts rechargeable batteries at its transfer stations. There is no charge for the service, she said.
MOSA has two transfer stations in Montgomery?County; one in?Amsterdam, the other in?Sprakers.
Since she began working at the Solid Waste Department 12 years ago, Woske said, the biggest change she has seen in consumers is how many are aware of recycling programs and interested in participating in them.
"Word of mouth has a lot to do with it," she said. "People are becoming more aware of what is going on."
For more information about Fulton County's program, call 736-5504.