Batteries are ubiquitous in modern society, from the tiniest button-sized lithium-ion variety to the lead-acid vehicle batteries. If they wind up in a landfill, they break down and leach heavy metals into the ground that can then end up in the groundwater, experts say.
Recycling batteries and electronics takes a little more effort than simply tossing them in the trash, but there are a number of places that accept them for proper disposal and recycling.
Many shops that sell batteries also recycle them. The website call2recycle.org lists 73 locations in the valley that will accept batteries for recycling, including most hardware stores, battery stores, RadioShack, Southwest Gas Corp. and Cirque du Soleil's corporate offices.
"In part, we do it to bring in customers, but we also want to provide a service to the community," said Rob Brunhild, who, with his brother, owns three Batteries Plus stores in the valley and several others out of state. "We have sorting bins when you come into the stores to separate the lead acid batteries, the lithium-ion, the alkaline, laptop batteries and others."
Brunhild said that while consumers are welcome to drop off batteries, the store has a separate setup for corporate accounts.
"We don't want people showing up with a pickup truck full of batteries," Brunhild said. "We do business with most of the big companies in town, and we set up our recycling with commercial properties differently."
The company has contracts with different national recycling firms to handle the various types of batteries. The firms break the batteries down to their components to process them.
Las Vegas Battery Recycling specializes in vehicle batteries, from golf carts to the Las Vegas Monorail, which uses a bank of 50- to 80-pound batteries.
"Ninety-five percent of car batteries are recycled," owner Paul Schwallier said. "There's nothing else in the country that gets recycled at that high a rate."
From his southwest-area warehouse, Schwallier travels across the valley to collect batteries. He said he will go across town to pick up a single car battery, but he also has regular customers, including motorcycle shops and hotel-casinos.
"It's not all vehicle batteries," Schwallier said. "I take anything except alkalines, the AA and AAA. There are batteries in exit signs, walkie-talkies and even hotel door locks, and they all eventually need to be replaced.
Nearly any electronic device can be recycled. Video game systems, cellphones and computers are all candidates for recycling or repurposing. A number of stores that sell electronics also recycle them. Best Buy, for instance, has a free computer recycling program.
"It's a fairly new program for us," Charles Kelly, manager of Best Buy at 2050 N. Rainbow Blvd., said of recycling e lectronics. "Some products, we can offer some store credit on, but even if we can't, we'll take it in for recycling."
Two valley nonprofit groups collect, erase and decide whether a computer should be recycled or repurposed.
"It depends on the computer," said Jason Potter, senior sales manager for downtown's Blind Center of Nevada, 1001 N. Bruce St. "If it's new enough and can be fixed, we wipe it and sell it. If it's too old or unrepairable, we break it down to its components and sell the raw materials for the commodity value."
The Blind Center has been around for more than half a century but began making a large portion of its operating capital from electronics recycling and recovery in 2005.
"If it plugs into a wall or runs off a battery, we can recycle it," Potter said. "Our services are free for the most part. The exceptions are CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors, which are a liability because of the glass and mercury. In some cases, we do charge to take them, but those fees might be waived in some circumstances."
Potter said some of the Blind Center's clients, such as banks or hospitals, are required to have a certified hard drive wipe, and there is a certification fee for that extra level of security.
Goodwill Industries of Southern Nevada has teamed up with Dell on a computer recycling program called Dell Reconnect. Goodwill stores valleywide accept computers and ship them to Dell for recycling. The proceeds from the recycling go to Goodwill.
"It isn't just that you're helping out the charity," Goodwill spokeswoman Kathy Topp said. "You're also helping the environment."
Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 380-4532.