26 September 2011
Be careful what you throw in the trash! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Did you know what happens to your solid waste?  It depends on where you live and work. If you live or work at Fort Detrick, waste materials that are not recycled are incinerated at Fort Detrick’s waste-to-energy facility.  If you work at the Forest Glen Annex, or live at the Glen Haven Housing Area, waste materials that are not recycled may be sent either to a municipal waste landfill or to the Montgomery County waste-to-energy facility.   Regardless of your location, it is important that harmful materials are kept out of the waste stream. There are many potentially harmful materials that may end up in the waste stream. 

This article focuses on batteries.   All batteries, rechargeable or not, contain potentially harmful materials. Rechargeable batteries come in a variety of types, to include nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd), nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH), lithium ion (Li-ion), and small sealed lead batteries.  Rechargeable batteries are commonly found in cellular and cordless phones, laptop computers, cordless power tools, two-way radios, camcorders, remote control toys, and a variety of other portable electronic products.  The common thread that links all rechargeable batteries is that they contain toxic metals. Most non-rechargeable batteries do not present the same level of environmental concern as rechargeable batteries, but they still contain chemicals that can be harmful.   

When a battery can no longer hold a charge, it should be recycled.  But why recycle?  Why not just throw them in the trash? All batteries contain hazardous substances.  Batteries present no threat to human health or to the environment while being properly used. However, at the end of their useful life, batteries can cause serious harm to human health and to the environment if they are discarded with ordinary household or workplace waste.  Here is some important information about batteries. ·

All rechargeable batteries and some non-rechargeable contain toxic (or heavy) metals, such as cadmium, mercury, and lead. When incinerated, the toxic metals can enter the air through smokestack emissions and can concentrate in the ash produced by combustion. When landfilled, toxic metals from the batteries have the potential to “leach” into the groundwater through rainwater infiltration. The toxic metals released to the environment can make their way into the food chain.  The possible health effects associated with ingestion or inhalation of toxic metals through water, food, or air include headaches, abdominal discomfort, seizures, and comas.  Some toxic metals, such as cadmium, are known carcinogens. Recycling of used batteries can significantly reduce the dangers these batteries pose to human health and the environment by diverting them from landfills or incinerators.

Once the batteries arrive at a recycling facility, the toxic metals are recovered during the recycling process. It’s easy to recycle batteries at Fort Detrick, Forest Glen, and the Glen Haven Housing Area.  You may have seen battery recycling stations in and around your office or housing area.  You may recycle any type of used battery that can be placed in this container.  You may also deliver your used batteries to the Fort Detrick Hazardous Materials Management Office in Building 262.  A special note:  Rechargeable batteries are classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a Universal Waste.  There is a time limit to the accumulation of these types of batteries.  If you see the Universal Waste sticker on your recycling station, the date on the sticker must not exceed 365 days.  If you do generate any batteries at your place of work and do not have a battery recycling station, please contact the Fort Detrick Hazardous Materials Management Office at 301-619-6938 or the Environmental Hotline at 301-619-0044.   

Posted by PAO

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