Vermont Passes Primary Battery Recycling Legislation; Other States to Consider Similar Legislation in 2015

George Kerchner, Executive Director, PRBA – The Rechargeable Battery Association

In late May, Vermont became the first US state to enact a primary battery recycling bill requiring the development of a program for collecting and recycling primary batteries.  The statute puts that burden on battery and some battery-powered manufacturers who place batteries on the market in the Green Mountain State.

At the bill-signing, Governor Peter Shumlin said:

“This bill is Vermont at its best: a collaboration between manufacturers, state, and local government. Vermonters buy over 10 million batteries a year and this bill will provide Vermonters with convenient options for recycling batteries.”

Vermont’s success was a little surprising in that the state legislature had never considered such a battery bill in previous sessions.  By comparison, California’s legislature has tried numerous times to pass a primary battery bill but failed each time.

The new law focuses on consumer-type primary batteries.  “Primary battery” is defined in the law as a “nonrechargeable battery weighing two kilograms or less, including alkaline, carbon-zinc, and lithium metal batteries.”  However, the law is not intended to cover the following:

  • Batteries intended for industrial, business-to-business, warranty or maintenance services, or nonpersonal use;
  • A battery sold in a computer, computer monitor, computer peripheral, printer, television, or device containing a cathode ray tube;
  • A battery that is not easily removable or is not intended to be removed from a consumer product; and
  • A battery that is sold or used in a medical device, as that term is defined in the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. § 321(h), as may be amended.

The Vermont program will take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.  Battery manufacturers must submit a plan to the state by July 2015 outlining how they will implement a collection program, which must provide accessible drop-off locations for consumers at retail and municipal sites.  Manufacturers may meet their obligations by filing individual plans or through an industry-sponsored battery stewardship organization such as Call2Recycle.  Call2Recycle is the largest battery stewardship program in North America that collects and recycles batteries at no cost to municipalities, businesses and consumers.  Call2Recycle has established over 34,000 collection sites throughout the U.S. and Canada.  It currently has approximately 1,000 rechargeable battery collection sites in Vermont, and it is likely to expand these to cover collection of primary batteries as well.

Vermont’s success now has other states looking to introduce similar primary battery bills or “all battery bills” during the 2015 legislative session.  Connecticut and Minnesota appear likely to introduce such legislation. These issues were the focus of a meeting in Hartford, Connecticut on June 11th and 12th organized by the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) and hosted by the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Participating in the meeting were battery industry representatives and trade associations, state regulators, battery recyclers, retailers and product-stewardship organizations.

During the PSI meeting, PRBA – The Rechargeable Battery Association, the Corporation for Battery Recycling (CBR), National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and Call2Recycle® released an “all-battery” model recycling bill for states to consider as they move forward. The groups’ model bill, which creates a framework for managing both primary and rechargeable batteries at end of life, was very well received by the meeting participants.

While Connecticut and Minnesota appear to be front runners for considering new battery product stewardship legislation in 2015, California cannot be overlooked. California tried this year to pass a primary battery bill (AB 2284) but once again failed to garner enough support for the legislation.