Five Ways to Jumpstart Your Battery Recycling Program the Sioux Falls Way

Sioux Falls HHWAs the largest city in South Dakota (SD), Sioux Falls has a long history that dates to Native American tribes that settled near the Big Sioux River. Today, the city is a busy commerce hub populated with Fortune 500 company offices, residential developments and parks. It’s also a city on the forefront of sustainability efforts nationwide, thanks to the zealousness of its 160,000 environmentally minded residents in the four-county region.

The enthusiasm for recycling is contagious. That’s why in 2014, the city was able to use recycling to extend the life of their landfill from 2065 to 2084, not an easy task for a city of any size. Rechargeable battery collections through Call2Recycle® have reached more than 10,000 pounds (4,535 kg) of rechargeable batteries since they joined the program in 2010, up from 144 pounds (65 kg) the previous year. Batteries are just one of the many items they recycle to protect the environment for the future.  According to Jessica Lantgen, the city’s sustainability coordinator, “Any space we save in the landfill is worth the effort.”

Keys to Success

Sioux Falls’ recycling program is innovative for a city of its size. Lantgen attributes the success to making smart choices on a limited budget. The primary focus is on educating residents on how and when to recycle a wide variety of products, including batteries. Here are 5 ways the city leverages its resources to encourage recycling:

Advertising blitz – The city invests significant resources in recycling education. The hazardous waste team recently created a TV commercial to run on home improvement channels. They also use radio advertising to reach adults and use free resources through the schools to reach children. Other unique outreach efforts include:

  • Writing articles. A recent article discusses recycling options, including batteries, for owners of multi-unit housing facilities.
  • Web site. The city’s comprehensive battery recycling and web site list a wide variety of information, including the city’s sustainability master plan, detailed battery recycling brochure and a current list of waste hauler rates so that residents can choose those that are environmentally responsible.

TroyLook them in the eye – The sustainability team of two attends about 40 local events each year to answer questions about sustainability and recycling, including battery disposal. The events range from a Parks & Recreation summer activities fair to a Water Festival where 4th graders learn how proper household hazardous waste disposal protects water quality. This year the city is sponsoring its first Earth Day event, which will feature an exhibit of art made from recyclable materials created by local university art students as well as information booths.

Convenient HHW facility – Sioux Falls has the only HHW facility in SD. It’s open 5 days a week (closed Sun/Mon). Last year it collected 2 million pounds of recyclable materials, including electronics, paint and batteries (both alkaline and rechargeable). Drop-offs are free for residents in the five county area; businesses pay a discounted rate. In 2014, 27,000 residents, or nearly a fifth of the population used the facility. Most of the rechargeable batteries come from portable power tools and toys; they also collect cellphones. The city recently added alkaline batteries to its collection program.


Jessica LangtenSioux FallsFree giveaways – Sioux Falls hosts a re-use room at its HHW facility. Residents that drop off electronics, paints or other reusable items are asked to fill out a registration form that enters them into a drawing for a donated (but working) TV. This generates lots of interest in the community notes Lantgen, who then uses social media to promote the giveaway winners.

Tweet! Tweet! Residents are invited to get the latest news on Twitter (@SFLeadingGreen) and Facebook (Gogreensf). The communication stream is affordable and gives the team a chance to interact directly with the public. They also use social media to promote events, give out tips and announce giveaways.

When it comes to going green, Sioux Falls is the source of affordable, innovative recycling ideas on a limited budget. “We are always trying to improve and push the envelope,” says Lantgen. “The response from the public is overwhelmingly positive. They are excited to see that their city is committed to creating a sustainable future.”

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