Why First Responder Battery Recycling Programs Are Good for Communities

FireRescue1-5When first responders travel to an emergency, cordless communications and electronic devices are critical to saving time and accurately assessing and communicating the situation. Recycling isn’t a priority like it may be at home or in work environments where travel is not part of the everyday job.  But first responders protect the community and the environment every day in their jobs.  Recycling is a natural extension of this commitment.

Consider the hundreds or even thousands of pounds of used batteries generated by two-way radios, flashlights, thermal imaging devices, laptops, cameras/camcorders, cellphones, portable defibrillators and other mission critical equipment. Instead of the landfill, these batteries can be recycled with minimal extra effort by police officers, firefighters and EMTs once they are back at their base.

Recycling makes sense

Why should first responders recycle rechargeable batteries?  For the same reasons as any community recycling program:

  • Recycling batteries is good for the environment. What used to end up in the landfill can now be repurposed to manufacture new products. Materials such as nickel, cadmium and cobalt are extracted from these batteries and reused to create new batteries, stainless steel alloys and other commercial metals.
  • Many U.S. states and Canadian provinces–such as New York, Vermont, Maine, California and British Columbia—require battery recycling under the state law. A recycling program can help meet these mandates.

Best practices

Communities such as Cedar Rapids, Iowa; King County, Washington; and New York City are leading the way in battery recycling programs. NYC offers a good example of a large-scale, well-organized recycling program. Since 2009, NYC’s Department of Sanitation has collected thousands of pounds of batteries from internal high-volume battery users, including fire and police department radio rooms, repair/maintenance locations and locations with small electronics using uninterruptible power supplies. Battery collections are bulk shipped to a recycling facility. The keys to the success of this program? Promoting the program aggressively, and making it easy for employees to participate and the department to administer and support. Read more about New York’s program.

Taking the first step

First responders can do their part to protect the environment by taking a few minutes to recycle their rechargeable batteries. This will enable the byproducts to be repurposed and kept out of the solid waste stream.

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