Point of View on Vermont House Bill 695
A law to establish a product stewardship program for primary batteries — The Corporation for Battery Recycling (CBR) sees the Vermont House Bill 695 signed into law by Governor Peter Shumlin on May 22, 2014, as an important first step to encourage wider battery recycling in the United States. Nonetheless, the bill must quickly be followed with additional measures to assure that battery recycling legislation meets intended environmental goals and is fair to consumers and businesses.
Establishing a stewardship system to keep batteries out of the municipal waste stream is a key goal for CBR. We believe this system should be led, and funded, by battery producers working in coordination with state and local governments.
The Vermont law meets part of this goal by establishing a statewide system that covers primary batteries used for personal, family or household purposes, including those batteries that are sold in or with most battery-powered devices. Consumers in Vermont will now be able to turn used primary batteries over to battery stewards for recycling in a system funded by CBR members.
Primary batteries covered by the Vermont bill include:
- Batteries sold separately for consumer use and batteries that might have some industrial applications, but are “regularly used” for personal, family or household purposes. This includes private label and imported batteries.
Primary batteries exempted by the Vermont bill include:
- Batteries primarily used or purchased for industrial or non-personal use, such as in gas meters, emergency lights on roads, or warning lighting on the sea or waterways attached to buoys and batteries sold “with” or “in” any product.
In our view, the Vermont bill is a good start, but it lacks a key component that must be included in national legislation–it does not guarantee participation by all battery manufacturers. While we believe the language of the bill establishes that most products that incorporate or are sold with batteries are covered, the state does not interpret the legislation the same way. The state’s interpretation allows a large number of batteries to end up in the waste stream in Vermont without holding those responsible for bringing the product into the state financially accountable.
Recent battery recycling audits in Vermont found that a large percentage of batteries that ended up in the waste stream entered the state through products that contain batteries, such as electronic devices and some toys. This finding is consistent with other audits CBR has conducted that found up to one third of batteries came from producers not required to take responsibility for their batteries. To the extent Vermont authorities plan to interpret the Vermont bill in a way that does not hold the producers of all primary batteries accountable, CBR reserves the right to challenge this interpretation. CBR believes the current interpretation imposes unfair costs on a few responsible battery businesses.
For major battery producers to support legislation, all those involved in the sale of batteries in the U.S. market must accept their fair share of responsibility.
CBR, in cooperation with NEMA and PRBA, has developed an all-battery model bill that addresses this concern. The bill requires recycling of both primary and rechargeable batteries, with limited exceptions to address instances where recycling could pose a risk or be difficult. The model bill reflects the following core principles:
- Positive impact on the environment
Today, the process to collect and recycle batteries can sometimes take a toll on the environment that outweighs the benefits. CBR supports programs that have a net positive effect on the environment, reducing solid waste and recovering valuable metals and other materials.
- Industry led and managed
As the most involved stakeholder, industry partners must take the leading role in shaping and implementing legislation.
- Shared responsibility and financial sustainability
A battery recycling program will succeed only if everyone plays a responsible role. Producers are a key part of the equation, but active—though not necessarily financial—participation from consumers, retailers, recyclers and local governments is vital in order to ensure the program is financially sustainable and not an undue burden on any one party.
- A level playing field
All companies–not just CBR members–that sell batteries in the U.S. marketplace must contribute to the cost of recycling batteries because all of those batteries will end up in the solid waste stream. Those who make and sell consumer products that contain batteries, like electronic devices and some toys, must also accept responsibility if they use batteries produced by companies that refuse to join recycling efforts. CBR believes that battery manufacturers—regardless of whether they have domestic or foreign facilities—should support the costs of recycling. If they do not, common sense and basic fairness requires that the product producer or retailer must support that effort.
- Nationally harmonized
CBR’s vision is for a comprehensive recycling bill that includes both single-use and rechargeable batteries. Different standards for different states add unnecessary complexity, confusion and cost. All state bills should reflect these six core principles of CBR’s model bill.
- Safe and responsible
CBR is committed to developing recycling programs that protect the safety and well being of workers tasked with the collection and recycling of spent batteries.
CBR will support sensible battery recycling legislation that reflects these principles.