The Low Down on Recycling Lithium Ion Batteries

Big news out of San Diego recently hit the recycling world. Zheng Chen, an assistant professor and nano-engineer from UCSD has developed a new method to recycle lithium-ion batteries. More specifically, according to a report by the San Diego Union Tribune, “He has developed a way to recycle used cathodes from spent lithium-ion batteries and restore them to the point that they work as good as new.” Considering those cathodes contain cobalt, a rare earth metal with a finite supply, this type of recycling has a momentous impact on the future of the tech world, most notably electric vehicles.

Electric vehicles use lithium-ion batteries that use rare earth metals like cobalt that have a finite supply.

So what does this mean for you? Well, maybe you saw an article headline and figured you can start tossing your lithium-ion batteries into your blue bin (false!). Or maybe you’re confused because you thought you already recycled all of your batteries. While the energy in the battery itself may not be reusable (at a large scale just yet), the materials themselves are 100% recyclable. With lithium-ion batteries powering many cell phones, laptops, power tools, and other electronics, it is likely we all have a few of these floating around our home. However, according to Chen, less than 3% of lithium-ion batteries around the world are recycled. For that reason, it’s important for us all to have accurate information on the proper way to handle these batteries at the end of their lifespan. We enlisted our friends over at Universal Waste Disposal Company to help us give you the low down on recycling lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable.

Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable, but even rechargeable batteries have a lifespan. Once a lithium-ion battery is completely spent or degraded, it should be properly stored until it is able to be recycled. While you cannot simply recycle these in your blue bin, according to California Law (AB1125)  most retailers that sell rechargeable batteries are required to accept and recycle these consumer batteries. If you prefer a drop off option, you can check with local retailers to find one that accepts lithium-ion batteries. For pick up recycling services, businesses like UWDC specialize in universal waste recycling.

Until you are able to recycle your lithium-ion batteries, it is extremely important to store them properly. You’ve probably heard stories of cell phones exploding or catching fire. This is related to the battery within the phone. When lithium-ion batteries “catch fire” or “explode” they are experiencing thermal runaway. Thermal runaway is essentially a chemical reaction inside the battery producing heat that causes additional chemical reactions that result in increasing heat until there is nothing left to react. So be very cautious if your device begins smoking, sizzling or popping. Stay alert! Lithium-ion battery packs typically contain several cells. If your device does catch fire, even though one cell may be extinguished, the residual heat may cause thermal runaway in the adjacent cells.

The number of lithium-ion batteries that are recycled is very low since they are housed inside of many devices. The batteries commonly remain in our homes when the old device gets tucked away in a drawer or storage space.

 

Thermal runaway can be the result of design flaws (inadequate venting, poor chemistry, inadequate safety features), user damage (dropping, crushing, puncturing), improper packaging or storage, or improper charging (wrong charger, cheap chargers, overcharging). To prevent thermal runaway, proper care and storage are key. While the battery is still in use, keep them out of the heat and freezing temperatures, use the charger that came with the lithium-ion powered device, keep them dry, and avoid overcharging them. When your batteries are at the end of their life, make sure to store them at room temperature. Tape over the terminals so that they do not make contact with each other. 

The future of the environment is our responsibility and in this case, it’s the law. Batteries of all types must be recycled. Please be sure to locate an authorized battery recycler in your area to properly recycle your used batteries.

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The Right Way to Recycle: Hard Drives and their Confidential Contents

As many of us at ILACSD know, one of the biggest barriers to getting folks to recycle is a lack of education on what is recyclable and how easy it can be! With seemingly constant changes to the items that can or cannot go into a blue bin, residents are often left feeling a little confused. Today, let’s take a moment to talk about the right way to deal with an electronic waste item that might cause some confusion: hard drives!

Inside every computer is a hard drive containing important, often sensitive information.

As many individuals and businesses understand, hard drives house loads of confidential and sensitive information. While it is very important to recycle or donate our e-waste items like computers, it can be frightening to think of our important, private information ending up in the wrong hands. Luckily, there is an option to help you responsibly recycle your e-waste items and securely destroy your data all at once: hard drive shredding!

Our friends over at Universal Waste Disposal Company offer this data destruction service through their Black Belt Data Destruction program. Black Belt Data Destruction is a mail-in hard drive shredding service developed specifically for small businesses, large corporations, government entities, AND everyday consumers. They offer various pricing options for this recycling service dependent on your personal needs and even offer bulk discounts.

Hard drive shredding destroys your confidential information and allows the scrap metal to be recycled!

 

How It Works:

When you purchase a Black Belt Data Destruction Kit, your old hard drive can be mailed-in using the provided tamper-proof sealed envelope. Once discretely packaged hard drives arrive, they are destroyed using state-of-the-art shredding technology to cut hard drives into tiny pieces recognized only as scrap metal and circuit board.

To ensure your sensitive data is properly destroyed, each kit comes standard with Certificate of Destruction and an encrypted video recording detailing the process from start to finish. With the Premium HDD Kit, you can even join a private live feed at the time of your choosing to watch as it takes place. The entire process lasts 2-3 minutes.

A Safe and Sustainable Solution

Whether you’re an individual or you run the IT department at a business, it is natural to want a sense of security when it comes to our confidential information. Hard drive shredding services like Black Belt Data Destruction can offer that peace of mind. On top of that, by utilizing this service, scrap metal is able to be recovered and recycled to help cut down on the demand for virgin materials. With the high demand and production of electronics, we are constantly seeing innovative ways to reuse, reduce, and recycle our e-waste. With hard drive shredding, we can responsibly recycle e-waste with confidence that our privacy is being protected!

The Right Way to Recycle: Aerosol Cans

As many of us at ILACSD know, one of the biggest barriers to getting folks to recycle is a lack of education on what is recyclable and how easy it can be! What might seem like constant changes to the items that can or cannot go into a blue bin often leave residents feeling a little confused. So today, let’s take a moment to talk about the right way to recycle a common household item… aerosol cans!

Open one of the cabinets in your kitchen, bathroom, or garage and chances are you’ll find an aerosol can. Though hairspray might be the first thing to pop into your head when you think of aerosols (I can’t be the only one picturing big 80s hair and an Aqua Net can?), the list of products that come in aerosol form is quite extensive. Here are just a few examples of products that are contained within the cylinder walls of an aerosol can:

Kitchen

Bathroom

Garage

Cooking Oil

Shaving Cream Gardening Chemicals

Whipped Cream

Hair Spray

Spray Paint

Cleaning Products

Dry Shampoo

Auto Maintenance
Products

 Air Freshener

Sunscreen

Insect Repellants

Deodorant

Shower/Toilet
Cleaners

Aerosol containers are composed of steel and aluminum. Steel is very similar to aluminum when it comes to its sustainable recycling capabilities according to our friends at Ball Corporation. You can check out our post on can growlers where we reviewed the benefits of materials like steel and aluminum for packaging. Because of its composition, aerosol cans are begging to be recycled. So how do you recycle them?

Well, when recycling an aerosol can, you first need to answer the question: “Is it completely empty?”

If you answered yes:

Awesome! Way to be aware of your needs, use up your products completely, and create less waste. Still, it is important that ensure that aerosol cans are completely empty. A quick way to be certain that the can is empty is to listen closely. Give the can a shake or spray (listen for any remaining fluid inside and verify that the product is no longer coming out of the nozzle). Once you know the can is empty, you can toss it in your blue bin for curbside recycling! No other steps are necessary. Make sure you never puncture aerosol can as it can be dangerous. There is no need to remove the nozzle before placing it in your recycling bin.

If you answered no:

Aerosol cans that still contain fluids are considered hazardous waste. You can still recycle these cans though! First, try offering the remaining contents to a friend or neighbor who might want it. Put the item on your local “Buy Nothing” page or see if it is able to be donated (unused spray paint can be donated Habitat for Humanity if it is in good enough condition). If you cannot donate or give the remaining product, you’ll want to treat it like any other household hazardous waste. Use the search bar on WasteFreeSD.org to find the closest location for recycling your hazardous waste.

So that’s it! Empty aerosol cans go directly in your blue bin to be recycled. Be sure to only buy as much of a product as you need and use it until it is depleted. Not only will that help you waste less, but it will make your recycling as easy as can be!

Three Easy Actions to Take for a Greener Office on America Recycles Day

Today is the 10th annual America Recycles Day a nationally recognized day and an initiative by Keep America Beautiful that promotes ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle in our everyday lives. America Recycles Day is dedicated to the individual actions that people can take that create a collective difference for our environment! Having normal “blue bin” style recycling in the office is an awesome start, but let’s take a look at some other ways to boost your recycling program (if you don’t have a recycling program in place, check out our previous blog post that can help you get one started). Here are three easy ways you can enhance your workplace recycling in celebration of America Recycles Day.

Deal with the Graveyard of Dead Electronics: Recycle Electronics

Electronics are all around us, especially in a workplace. So what happens to all of those electronics when they kick the bucket? Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, should be properly recycled with a certified e-waste recycling company. Printers, computers, laptops, fax machines, phones (yes, most offices have landlines) can all be taken to a recycling location or a temporary collection event. Some businesses even offer to pick these items up from your workplace. Start by designating a spot in your workplace to collect electronics that are no longer working and can no longer be repaired (you can search for repair options on WasteFreeSD.org ). When you want to recycle the collected e-waste, simply use the search bar on WasteFreeSD.org by typing in a specific item, “E-waste Collection Event”, or “Electronic Waste Pick-up”.

Make sure everyone in the office knows where to drop off any electronic waste to be recycled.

Donate Before Ditching: Give Unwanted Office Supplies and Furniture to a Thrift Store

Does your workplace have way too many paper trays or stockpiles of old binders? Did your office go through a remodel and now has a bunch of outdated office decor? Don’t toss these items! Give your supplies and furniture a shot at finding a new home by donating them to a thrift store. Start by letting your colleagues know about the collection of unwanted office supplies, where they should drop off their unwanted supplies, and give them the opportunity to grab something they might need from the collection before it’s donated. Head over to WasteFreeSD.org to search “Thrift Stores” if you don’t know your nearest one. You can even find a local thrift store or organization that specializes in just second-hand furniture if you recently upgraded your office furniture.

Recent workplace renovations? Donate your unwanted office furniture or supplies to a nearby thrift store!

Stop Wasting Half the Paper Supply: Print Double-sided

A staple in almost any office is a large industrial printer. And chances are your office goes through a ton of paper. Remember to recycle that paper first off! Ensure that each cubicle, office, and room has a recycling bin and clear signage indicating the types of items that should be placed in it. But there is also another option to cut down on wasted paper: printing double-sided. Change your printer’s default setting to printing on both sides to reduce the amount of paper used. Another option is to have a pile of “previously printed on paper” that has an unused side. Utilize paper from this pile to manually feed into your printer for one-sided print jobs or for scratch paper!

Set those printer default settings to print on both sides of the paper!

Keep Up the Recycling Momentum

Don’t let your recycling efforts fade after America Recycles Day ends. Keep the conversation going! Each workplace should have a designated recycling champion…that can be you! Kindly remind your co-workers about recycling guidelines, reward anyone you catch “green-handed” (recycling correctly or contributing to the donation pile), and celebrate your workplace achievements with all of the staff. Don’t wait until the next America Recycles Day to implement a new practice and remember to provide your team with resources that make recycling crystal clear.

For more information regarding recycling, visit the Resources Page at WasteFreeSD.org or register for an upcoming workshop.

A New Look is Coming to WasteFreeSD

There is some exciting news in store for I Love A Clean San Diego’s Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste database, WasteFreeSD.org. For those who have not visited the site, WasteFreeSD.org is an online database full of recycling resources and utilizes a search bar to generate results that are organized by priority and then by proximity to your zip code. Residents and businesses in San Diego County have instant recycling information at their fingertips 24/7.

WFSD before
Currently, WasteFreeSD.org provides recycling information, but more resources are coming soon!

So what’s the exciting news you ask? WasteFreeSD.org is getting a much needed makeover! The database is about 10 years old and although we have grown to love it for the services it provides, the functionality of the website needed an upgrade. In addition to the functionality of the website, the message had to take an innovative turn as well. WasteFreeSD.org has been San Diego County’s recycling database, the newly redesigned site is going to be a zero waste database. That’s huge! That means that when you complete a search for more information about a certain item, options to Reduce, Repurpose, Repair, Donate, and Recycle will populate. As San Diego County strives to send less to the landfill, we’re excited  to help local residents and businesses do their part through WasteFreeSD.org.

Newly redesigned features to WasteFreeSD.org include:

  • User friendly search bar
  • Results follow the zero waste hierarchy: Repair, Repurpose, Donate, Recycle, Dispose
  • Showcases more of I Love A Clean San Diego’s blogs
  • RepairSD.org will be housed under one website (no need for two separate searches!)
WFSD after
Sneak peek at the newly redesigned WasteFreeSD.org!!

The newly designed WasteFreeSD will be a more interactive and overall easier for San Diegans to use and conserve resources. The main page will highlight helpful articles, blogs, and infographics. Most importantly it will highlight our partners who help keep San Diego looking beautiful! One of our first featured spots will be SDG&E’s Marketplace, an interactive search tool that helps you find energy efficient products. SDG&E’s Marketplace allows for residents and businesses to shop around for products that are energy efficient, qualify for rebates, and are cost effective. WasteFreeSD will be released late-August but users can visit SDG&E’s Marketplace now!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest for the latest news about WasteFreeSD.orgJoin us as San Diego leads the way to truly waste-free landfills!

The moment that inspired Leila to create less waste

“We generate enough trash to fill Qualcomm Stadium each year…”

The words spoken by my Conservation Science and Policy professor sent an unsettling feeling straight to the pit of my stomach. That is an insane amount of trash. Buried right here in the City? No way. Yet, there I was sitting in a desk learning about waste management policies and how they impact our environment. I learned that the Miramar Landfill is San Diego’s only active landfill. San Diego’s trash is buried in a site that opened in 1959 and is projected to close between 2020 – 2025! That got me thinking. Where will the trash go? How does that much even exist here in the City? Enough to fill Qualcomm? Is recycling not enough to reduce landfill input?

Miramar Landfill KPBS
photo credit: KPBS; Katie Orr

 All of these questions echoed in my head when I found myself sitting in a bus on a field trip, in the middle of the current open “pit” at the Miramar Landfill. There I was in a crater of trash, an eyesore of waste piled multiple feet high. The view unearthed the ugly truth that waste is a huge issue that is usually out of site, out of mind. Sitting in the middle of the trash I had the same unsettling feeling and I felt compelled to act.

bench
Toothbrushes made from recycled yogurt cups and benches constructed out of milk jugs serve as proof that we can do more with our resources.

From that day on I decided to embrace the zero waste lifestyle. I started by reflecting on the trash I produced and looking into organizations that were helping to combat the waste issues in San Diego. Research led me to stumble upon I Love A Clean San Diego. I was inspired by the cleanups and the passion for sustainability the organization embodied. I became more impressed when I found WasteFreeSD.org and how it is a resource for residents like me who want to divert their waste in an environmentally friendly manner.

WhatToRecycleMagnet
Start with the basics!

I feel fortunate to now be a part of the team! Assisting the Call Center allows me to direct residents to proper disposal facilities, help keep hazardous waste out of the landfill, and provide repair and reuse options to those who are also waste conscious. My journey with zero waste all started with the pit, both literally and figuratively. Think back to a time that really impacted you, maybe you acted on it, maybe you didn’t but the impact it had is still just as important. Grasp that feeling; it can change your life and the planet’s.

c2b16 mountain view park (200)
Leila (far left) and two of our interns checking out cleanup supplies at our annual Creek to Bay Cleanup!

Visit CleanSD.org to learn how you can get involved in making a lasting impact on our environment!

Food Waste: Impact beyond the Plate

My faceHi I’m Shannon and as one of the marketing interns for ILACSD I am excited to have the opportunity to explore the effects of food waste . My interest in food deserts and the lack of healthy food options in America led me to investigate how food waste affects our community and ways we can prevent it all together.

When I think about wasted food I imagine feeling guilty about leaving those last pieces of broccoli on my plate after dinner, however, food waste is much more serious than wasting a few good veggies. Food waste refers to the massive quantity of quality food that is wasted annually instead of being given to those in need. According to the National Resources Defense Council, “Forty percent of the food produced in the United States never gets eaten.” So what does food waste really do?

Food Waste Inforgraphic #1
Source: www.sustainableamerica.org

Don’t worry there are ways to fight back against food waste!

The San Diego Department of Public Works has some great solutions to help you minimize food waste in the future. They rely upon the Environmental Protection Agency’s food recovery strategy to most efficiently and cost effectively reduce San Diego’s food waste. Based on this hierarchy, San Diego’s DPW established a food waste system based on 3 simple steps: Reduce, Donate and Compost.

Food Recovery Hierachy

To best implement waste reduction in our personal lives the DPW suggests re-considering portion sizes, limiting the number of menu items you order when you go out to eat and planning all the week’s meals so your grocery list only consists of what you need to make those meals. According to the DPW it is important to be conscious of the volume of food you eat in comparison to the volume of food you waste.

Infographic about food waste
source: www.campuskitchens.org

Donating leftover food is another great way to reduce food waste! There are a lot of local organizations that lead San Diego’s effort to feed hungry San Diegans. Check out Feeding America and San Diego Food Bank for local options to donate your leftover quality food. Reducing food waste also means giving those without the means to feed themselves the food they need to survive.

CV_AfterSchool_compost (4)
Kids think composting is fun too!

The final step is using spoiled and leftover food for composting in your own backyard or neighborhood! Check out our previous blogs on composting to see how easy and fun it really is.

It’s important to remember that food waste is a serious national issue so let’s work together to help make San Diego even better than it already is and improve the lives of thousands in the process!