This week I flew to the West Coast to make a presentation on behalf of several NEMA sections at a solid waste management industry conference. The morning after my arrival, I took the opportunity to stroll the conference exhibit hall, where a number of waste industry product and service providers were manning display booths, handing out literature, and chatting with colleagues and potential clients. I was unfamiliar with most companies in the hall, but recognized one as perhaps the most widely known waste management firm in the US. I was therefore dismayed when I came across a hand-out on the company's table that stated: "Batteries are hazardous waste and do not belong in the trash or recycling. They need to be disposed of at a hazardous waste facility or through (the company's disposal program)"
This is not only inaccurate, it is reckless and irresponsible. It serves no purpose to mislead consumers into believing that common, household AAA, AA, and 9 volt batteries represent a threat to their health or the environment. NEMA and the members of its dry battery section expend substantial time and effort countering this sort of misinformation. The fact that it is being disseminated in a public forum by such a large and influential industry presence is discouraging and suggests the industry needs to remain vigilant at getting its message out. Consumers have enough real hazards to worry about – they don't need irrational fears hoisted on them as part of a marketing campaign.
For the record, I relayed my concerns to the employee manning the exhibit booth (a marketing staffer) and intend to follow up shortly with company officials. Anyone seeking accurate information about characteristics of household batteries, including disposal practices, can find it by accessing www.nema.org, or by contacting Mark Kohorst at NEMA (firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-841-3249).