Where should the used batteries go?

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Art sculpture made by dead batteries. Picture from Pinterest.

Living and studying in UK for more than half a year, I have gradually formed the habit of classifying wastes. The reason that I form this habit only in the past half year is not that I am not aware, but that the policy of classifying wastes has never been put into effective practice at home.

I was born in the 1990s. I believe that many among my generation have been educated about classifying wastes and making recycling easier. Particularly, we were told that used batteries are harzadous. As if it were going to be a fancy collection, I prepared a box and put in batteries, from electronic toys, remote controls, on the roads. The box became heavier as time went by because I only knew that these batteries should not go along with household garbage but did not know where they should be. The big box was then thrown away when my family moved our house. By that, all my efforts to contribute to environmental protection was wasted.

There is this problem that industrial system of waste recycling is incomplete and faulty. Has the situation improved over the past decade, from my childhood years to today? I am afraid not much.

Media has reported and citizens might also have noticed that new housing communities are mostly equipped with classified waste bins but are used in a mixed way. Early in 2000, eight cities in China were named as pilot cities to carry out seperate collection of waste. However, in a report in 2014 published on people.cn, the author pointed out that citizens stopped collecting recyclable things because they are too cheap to be sold, that wastes classified by citizens are still collected together by sanitation workers. In 2010, Jiuliang Wang, a freelance photographer, published more than 4000 photos and a video documentary about garbage landfills around the city of Beijing.

Nowadays, many people are aware of classifying wastes but their passion and skills are gradually lost due to the incomplete chain of recycling. The government should do more than popularizing an idea.

China’s situation is complicated. It has a large population, which means more waste is produced every day than any other nation as well as varied level of education of its people. Regarding this, I suppose an experience of the German government might be helpful–container deposit legislation.

The regulation adds a deposit to the price of any soft drinks with reusable packaging and refunds the deposit when it is returned to an authorized center. When recycling is connected with everyday monetary consuming, people have the initiative. In the meantime, it is easy to do as long as the authorized center is made accessible.

What is essential is that the government needs to be more active and predominant, in every aspect including putting forward a slogan, making policies and inspecting on policy implementation.

At the end of this article, I would like to go back to recycling on used batteries. To my surprise, many batteries we use in daily life now can be disposed with other wastes. Single use batteries are such, because the government has forbidden industries to produce batteries with mercury more than 0.0001% of the battery’s weight, since 2005. Yet rechargeable batteries such as  those from cellphones and electric vehicles are still dangerous and requires special recycling.

Thanks to this blog, I found and want to recommend this website called Battery University which has enormous scientific facts about batteries and can offer advice from a battery’s “birth to retirement”.

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