Ask Betty: Recycle me!

Batteries: to recycle, or not to recycle? And how? File photo. Batteries: to recycle, or not to recycle? And how? File photo.

Teri Kent runs Charlottesville’s Better World Betty, a non-profit organization and online resource for locals looking to shrink their impact on the environment. Every month, Betty—Kent’s ’50s-housewife-meets-earth-goddess alter ego —answers the most burning eco-questions from our readers about energy use, water, waste and recycling, transportation, and green buying.

Question: I’m looking for a way to recycle my running and cycling apparel, but it appears that Brooks and Pearl Izumi don’t have any recycling programs. (I checked.) Can you help me find a solution?

Answer: Unfortunately, not all clothing manufacturers are created equal when it comes to environmental stewardship and corporate social responsibility. However, recent clothing recycling initiatives from retailers like H&M and Marks and Spencer give me hope.

North Face has launched its “Clothes the Loop” in 10 of its stores. Bring in any unwanted apparel or footwear and receive a store voucher. The company has partnered with the Conservation Alliance, which will turn the material into products like insulation, carpet padding, toy stuffing, and even new clothing. Only thing: Our nearest participating store is in Washington, D.C. So unless you’re headed that direction, take your unwanted apparel to one of our many consignment stores or thrift shops (find a listing in Betty’s directory at under “C” for clothing).

Q: Can the black plastic containers that Nintendo DS games come in be recycled? (The games, not the game system). I can’t find a recycling number on the boxes. I hate the idea of throwing them in the trash.

A: It’s hard to say without seeing the container, but I’m afraid if it doesn’t have the recycle symbol with a number in the middle, you have no choice but to landfill. The good news is that new Nintendo game packaging is recyclable. And as far as the consoles and game itself, the company has a take-back program. Nintendo partners with an R2-certified national recycler that meets its corporate social responsibility goals. For more information check out www.nintendo. com/consumer/recycle.jsp.

Q: Our lives are filled with so many batteries of all shapes, types, and sizes—regular household batteries, camera and cell phone batteries, and others. What’s a Betty to do with them all? I buy rechargeables now, but still have plenty of batteries that I don’t know what to do with at the end of their lifespan.

A: Regular household batteries like AAs, AAAs, and Ds are alkaline batteries. Since 1996, the EPA has required manufacturers to stop adding mercury to these batteries, so some say it’s fine to throw them into the trash individually (sometimes these batteries aren’t completely dead, so if they come into contact with other “live” batteries, it could be hazardous).

However, I highly recommend recycling all your batteries, as this keeps heavy metals out of our air, soil and waterways and also conserves valuable resources because recovered plastic and metals can be used to make new batteries. Emmet Street retailer Batteries Plus, which uses EPA-certified recyclers, will accept them for a small fee of $1.49 per pound. The liquid nickel cadmium, mercury, primary lithium, and zinc-air batteries recycling fee is $5.49 per pound.

Rechargeables, which include the regular AA and AAA variety and lithium-ion, lithium-polymer, nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, and silver oxide batteries definitely should be recycled at the end of their lifespan. Batteries Plus accepts those for free. They also accept lead automotive batteries, as do area auto parts retailers.

Also good to know: Batteries Plus recycles light bulbs, too.

Ask Betty!