A bill making its way through the state Legislature could provide more incentive for consumers to recycle lead-acid batteries and control costs for battery manufacturers and distributors.
Michael Moeller, president of Remy Battery Co. Inc. in Milwaukee has been leading the charge in supporting Assembly Bill 266, which would allow businesses to charge $5 or more if consumers don’t bring in used lead-acid batteries when buying new ones.
Currently, businesses may charge consumers up to–but not more than—$5 for keeping the hazardous batteries. Setting $5 as the floor would allow the market to set the charge, Moeller said.
When the current law was implemented in the 1980s to encourage proper recycling of the batteries, the value of scrap lead acid batteries was near zero, Moeller said. It wasn’t expected to exceed $5, but rising commodity prices mean the batteries are now worth much more than that.
And a $5 charge is not enough of an incentive to get consumers to bring in their batteries, Moeller said.
“What’s happened is that at the point of purchase, a lot of people are not turning in their scrap lead acid batteries,” he said. “This is a hazardous material—it’s not like aluminum cans. It has lead, it has sulfuric acid in it, it’s not something you want in the backyard where your kids are playing.”
Between 90 and 95 percent of lead acid batteries that are put into service are sent back for recycling, he said. Distributors like Remy can send scrap back to battery manufacturers and receive credit for their accounts, controlling costs. The recycling process decreases the overall cost of the final product.
“Not only is it good for small businesses, it’s also very good for the environment,” Moeller said.