Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Another regulation, this time on recycling rechargeable batteries, will it never end?


There’s a new law that goes into effect today on properly getting rid of those rechargeable batteries in New York State. Though the onus is on the manufacturers and retailers of recyclable batteries at this time, it would be a good idea for everyone to realize the importance of not throwing your small rechargeable batteries into the trash.

New battery-disposal law takes effect today | Democrat and Chronicle | A law goes into effect today that makes it illegal to dispose of rechargeable batteries in the regular trash. The New York State Rechargeable Battery Law, which was signed by then-Gov. David Paterson in December 2010, prohibits the disposal of rechargeable batteries, such as laptop batteries or camera batteries, in non-recyclable containers. (December 5, 2011) Democrat and Chronicle

We encourage all residents to use this opportunity to properly Recycle these kinds of batteries which have heavy metals in them: nickel-cadmium, sealed lead, lithium ion, and nickel metal hydride. We don’t want that stuff in our landfills.

DEC: Ban on Disposing Rechargeable Batteries in NYS Goes into Effect Today A provision in the New York State Rechargeable Battery Recycling Act prohibiting disposal of most rechargeable batteries as a solid waste in the state starts today, announced the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The new provision of the law gives consumers the opportunity to drop off rechargeable batteries at local retail stores. The law already requires battery manufacturers to provide for collection and recycling of rechargeable batteries in a statewide program at no cost to consumers. "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. "Valuable metals from rechargeable batteries can be recovered for reuse instead of ending up in the trash." (December 5, 2011) New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

You can take those spent batteries back to the places that sold you the rechargeable batteries, or store them in a can and take them to the Monroe County recycling center when it’s filled, or store them until a local recycling event that includes them occurs. There are many such events in the Rochester region, where we post these events on our calendar and newsletter. Here is the reference for the new law:

Rechargeable Battery Recycling - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation “Beginning December 5, 2011, no "person" (as defined in Subdivision 1-0303(18) of the Environmental Conservation Law available on the right side of this page under "Links Leaving DEC's Website") shall knowingly dispose of covered rechargeable batteries as solid waste at any time in the state.”

So, this brings us all to this: A new law about recycling. Another new darn law. It probably drives some folks crazy to see that yet another law has been marched out to limit the public’s freedom. The freedom to buy anything thing they want and then throw that used item anywhere where one wants is in jeopardy.

But here’s the thing: environmental groups, scientists, health officials and others concerned about our environment have been stating for a long time that these heavy metals from rechargeable batteries shouldn’t be thrown into our landfills, which can be very toxic. These groups have tried to back green business and encourage reduction, reuse, and recycle. And when businesses tried to start up and collect those batteries, few bothered use that business to properly dispose of those recyclables. The market, the invisible hand of laissez-faire Capitalism, was not reaching into our pockets for those spent batteries and properly taking care of them. The market only cares about our environment when specific actions make a profit. Otherwise the market is completely blind to the health of our environment.

(Please, don’ march out that creative destruction argument, where the market automatically stops ruining the environment when it has destroyed it. For example, when fish populations drop so low as to be non-profitable, the market will go elsewhere. That’s great for the market, but we will have destroyed the oceans—which we’re pretty close to doing anyway. )

The answer is not, oh well if you cannot make spend batteries profitable, or any other discarded item pay, just landfill it. The answer, more than likely, will be for governments to put in place laws so our environment doesn’t get more harmed by the toxic release of improperly disposed items.

What are you going to do? We have to protect ourselves from the mindlessness of the market place. The market place has had a couple of centuries to run their operations sustainably so that they don’t poison and harm our environment. That certainly hasn’t happened. It’s taken the government to step in and make laws to make sure our environment isn’t completely trashed by corporations.

This is all quite pertinent because the GOP is launching an effort to get their candidates elected by reducing environmental regulations. Jobs, any kind of job, are the answer they believe. That’s loony. You cannot have a job on a planet that can no longer support life. Given the historical abuse of industry in polluting our land, air, and water (not to mention our fauna and flora) the GOP has become an irresponsible political party unfit for leadership.

E.P.A. Draws Harsh Words From Most G.O.P. Candidates - WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is emerging as a favorite target of the Republican presidential candidates, who portray it as the very symbol of a heavy-handed regulatory agenda imposed by the Obama administration that they say is strangling the economy. (August 17, 2011)

The answer to the question: Will regulations about recycling properly ever end? No, not until our economy reflects its costs to our environment. Until then, government will have to be the adult.

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