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Durham Pilots Region-Wide Curbside Battery Recycling Program

The Recycling Challenge

Recovering Highly Recyclable Batteries

Although approximately 86 per cent of a non-rechargeable battery is recyclable and recoverable in Ontario, around one-third of consumers admit that they throw their spent batteries in the garbage. It’s thought that Ontario residents use up to 1.5 kilograms of single-use batteries per person each year. And, while many Ontario residents recycle their used batteries at over 2,500 drop-off locations that are part of Stewardship Ontario’s Orange Drop Program, the challenge is to capture more batteries for recycling. It’s a much more energy-efficient way to create new manufactured goods, because using materials from discarded batteries, rather than creating metal from ore, yields up to 90 per cent in energy savings.[1]

The Sustainable Solution

Special Collection Service for Household Batteries

The Regional Municipality of Durham has piloted an extensive curbside battery recycling program with two dedicated collection periods. The first collection was held in November 2012 and the second in March 2013. Each of these special one-week collections made 190,000 residential curbside stops and was timed with daylight savings time changes, when people usually replace batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Each Durham household received a specially designed sealable bag for storing unwanted batteries—like the kind used in toys, electronics, remote controls, hearing aids, flashlights—before placing them at the curb with their Blue Box for collection.  After each collection, the used battery bags were returned to the bag manufacturer to be recycled into new bags.

battery-illustrationConvenience Increases Battery Collection

The total haul for the first curbside battery collection in November 2012, a week after the clocks went back, was 24,700 kilograms (24.7 metric tonnes). And Durham Region now holds the Guinness World Record for the most batteries collected in a 24-hour period—setting the bar, on November 15, 2012, at 5,090 kilograms (5.09 metric tonnes).

The idea for the Durham program emerged from conversations between Durham Region staff and staff from Raw Materials Company at a waste management conference. Port Colborne’s Raw Materials Company Inc. (RMC)—an approved processor under Stewardship Ontario’s Orange Drop Program for Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste (MHSW)—processes batteries to recover steel, agricultural micro-nutrients for growing corn as a biofuel, and plastic and paper fluff that goes to create energy from waste.

The Curbside Collaborators

Stewardship Ontario’s Orange DropStewardship Ontario is a not-for-profit organization funded and governed by the industries that make and market the products and packaging materials recycled through the programs it manages–the Blue Box and Orange Drop.

The Regional Municipality of DurhamLocated in Southern Ontario, east of Toronto, Durham Region includes the cities of Oshawa and Pickering, the towns of Ajax and Whitby, the townships of Uxbridge, Brock and Scugog and the municipality of Clarington.

Raw Materials Company Inc.An international leader in the field of waste and resource recycling, the company was formed to reflect a commitment to a safer environment through the proper recycling and conservation of waste material. As pioneers in the field of energy conservation and resource preservation, RMC is proud of its contribution to a cleaner global environment.

Miller Waste SystemsSpecializes in waste and recycling collection, processing and marketing of materials as well as the design, construction and operation of waste diversion facilities. With corporate head office located in Markham, Ontario, it currently has branch operations throughout Ontario as well as in Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Green For Life (GFL) Environmental Corp.—A fully integrated solid and liquid waste management company that has been involved in the collection and processing of waste from Ontario to British Columbia for over 40 years.

Covanta Energy Corporation—Has provided reliable and sustainable municipal solid waste (MSW) management to communities since 1986. Covanta operates over 40 state-of-the-art facilities.

Indaco Manufacturing Ltd.—This Pickering-based company has been producing biodegradable film since the late 80s. The majority of Indaco’s business has been closely related to municipal mandated collection of organic waste.

Connect with Stewardship Ontario

We are always interested in hearing about new ideas to improve recycling. Contact us to talk about your green innovations and forward-thinking recycling technologies.


[1] *According to a study conducted by Environment Canada, 2009


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