Bins disappear — but county insists it does recycle batteries

| 15 Feb 2012 | 11:10

    Goshen — The batteries in all the new toys and digital gadgets found under the tree will eventually run down and get pitched into the trash. What happens then? Emma Gonzales-Laders of Goshen thought she knew. She believed her used batteries would be recycled. "We save our used batteries separate from trash," Gonzales-Laders wrote to this newspaper. "There used to be a shed, with a bin where you could drop them at the county landfill. We're now being told there's no such place, and even when they had a separate bin, they would just dump them with the rest of the pile. I am so outraged! There has to be a better way to keep mercury and other harmful chemicals from contaminating the soil and underground waterways. Particularly being so close to the Wallkill River." Orysia Dmytrenko, spokesperson for Orange County Executive Edward Diana, said this is not the county's practice. All three of the county's transfer stations accept batteries of any type for recycling, she wrote in an emailed message. That would include even the carbon zinc batteries that the county's battery disposal fact sheet says is nonhazardous waste that can be put into the trash. "People may drop everything off at once at any one of the county’s three transfer stations," she wrote. "Safe and environmentally sound waste disposal is the primary focus and mission of Orange County’s Environmental Facilities and Services Division, which oversees the county’s three transfer stations." She also wrote that the county's landfill was closed in 1993 and presents no danger to the Wallkill River. Still, the county's fact sheet directs residents to bring their recyclable batteries back to the retailer — not the landfill. The county recently updated its fact sheet to reflect a new state law that requires the recycling of all rechargeable batteries. The law went into effect on Dec. 10. The sheet still classifies as "non-hazardous" Akaline and rechargeable akaline batteries, and nickel metal hydride rechargeable batteries. But the proper disposal of these batteries has been changed from "place in trash" to "return to retailer where purchased." Lead acid vehicle batteries may be brought to the transfer station or to one of the county's hazardous waste disposal days held throughout the year. All other batteries need to be brought to one of the hazardous waste days, including lithium batteries; the sealed lead acid batteries found in cameras and power tools; and the silver oxide batteries found in watches, hearing aids, toys, and remote controls. The county's battery fact sheet is online at The new battery law Battery manufacturers were already required to collect and recycle rechargeables at no cost to consumers. The new law says local stores must also accept rechargeable batteries for recycling, along with direct sellers — those who do business through catalogs, phone sales, and the Internet. "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," said Joe Martens, commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. "Valuable metals from rechargeable batteries can be recovered for reuse instead of ending up in the trash." Retailers must post signs alerting consumers about the disposal ban and identify their shops as places where rechargeable batteries may be recycled. Rechargeable batteries covered by this law include nickel cadmium, sealed lead, lithium ion, nickel metal hydride and any other dry cell rechargeable batteries weighing less than 25 pounds. This law does not cover vehicle batteries or non-rechargeable batteries such as common alkaline batteries. Rechargeable batteries from cordless power tools, laptops, telephones, cameras and other electronic devices are among a growing list of products New Yorkers can return to retailers for recycling at the end of its useful life. Any retailer who violates the law would be liable for a civil penalty of $200 for the first violation, $400 for a second violation within 12 months, and $500 for a third or subsequent violation within 12 months. Any battery manufacturer who violates the law would be liable for a civil penalty of $2,000 for the first violation, $4,000 for a second violation within a 12-month period, and $5,000 for a third or subsequent violation within 12 months. For more information visit