Everyone has them. And everyone has thrown them away. One little AA battery might not seem like a big deal, but when you consider just how many batteries get dumped into landfills each year, it shocks you. You stand in the middle of your kitchen holding the dead cell about as far away from you as you can (once you learn just which nasty chemicals it contains, that is) and think to yourself “well now what?”
That’s my cue.
I’m the battery guy. That’s what they call me when I go to the grade school to pick up the large green file tubs that are usually overflowing with batteries. I’ll lug them out to my car and return them, empty, sometime the next week. This wasn’t something dumped on me, or something that my parents made me do, although they have put in their fair share of time to the project. It started when I was in the fifth grade (that’s seven years ago now) and I needed a community service project for 4-H. My mother suggested collecting batteries from the families in the Otto H. H. Petersen grade school that I attended. The batteries I collected, I would take to the Metro Hazardous Waste center where they would be kept out of landfills or recycled, both very good alternatives to being thrown away and leaking their chemicals into the environment. This worked well, and as I went through the school system a tub would be placed in a library, or a classroom or another frequented locale.
What began as a single tub on the counter in the office has blossomed into a project encompassing multiple tubs throughout the community. There is a receptacle in each of the six schools in our district, and one church. I have representatives that attend the various schools to keep an eye on the tubs for me. When the Metro requested that I sort the batteries (because I was, at that point, bringing in hundreds of pounds of used cells, that they would have to sort) I organized a pizza party for my friends and we divided the batteries into Alkaline, rechargeable, button, and “other” categories. And, believe me, I have had me share of “others”. There have been a variety of oddities, from wrapped battery packs, to electric toothbrush handles, to cells that I couldn’t even begin to guess what they were for.
In the whole, it’s been a rewarding experience. I’ve had fun with my friends, and it’s given be an excuse to go back to the other schools and see my old teachers. The guys at the Hazardous Waste station even know me now. The biggest reward is largely intangible: keeping those thousands of pounds of batteries out of the environment. This project is going to go on. Many of my younger friends have expressed interest in picking up the slack when I go off to college next year. This has been a great project for me, and the Scappoose community will continue to benefit from it for years to come.