Posts Tagged ‘cellphone’

Guest Blog – Addressing the Challenges of Measuring Recycling Performance

Posted by GlobalPSC at 4:45 pm, June 8th, 2016Comments1

The Global Product Stewardship Council periodically invites thought leaders on product stewardship and producer responsibility to contribute guest blogs. Our guest blogger for this post is Carl Smith, President and CEO of Call2Recycle, Inc.

Prior to becoming the head of a non-profit 12 years ago, I had spent most of my career with big for-profit companies where we measured everything. These measures provided continuous feedback on what was working and what needed to be fixed (or stopped). Upon arriving in the non-profit, product stewardship world, I noted that much less was measured and that organizational performance metrics were at best elusive.

One of the biggest frustrations we have is how to accurately assess the performance of our battery recycling efforts. The recycling field has typically relied on “diversion rates” as a measure; specific to battery collection and recycling, the more specific “collection rate” measure is typically used. As has been defined by the EU, battery collection rate is defined by the amount recycled in a year divided by the average annual sales of batteries for the previous three years. Like “diversion rates”, a “collection rate” is expressed as a percentage.

Traditionally, the focus of the Call2Recycle® program in the US has been on collecting and recycling rechargeable batteries. For a variety of reasons, this ‘typical’ approach to measuring our performance simply didn’t make sense.

First, fairly soon after I took this position, it became clear that rechargeable battery companies simply do not know what their consumer battery sales are into any specific jurisdiction. There are simply too many channels, applications and value chains to even estimate sales. For a very simple example, let’s look at how a big retailer like Walmart operates in the US. It purchases in vast quantities directly from a manufacturing facility in Asia. The facility transports via container ship to a West Coast port where they are then trucked to a distribution facility in a Midwestern state. Given the North American Fair Trade Agreement (NAFTA), units could also be shipped to distribution centers in Canada and Mexico. Those distributions centers then fulfill store orders on a ‘just in time’ basis. So if you asked the manufacturer how many batteries it has sold in, for instance, the state of Vermont, it won’t know. It sold to Walmart and where they actually appeared in the US market is a mystery to them.

Second, the rechargeable batteries we’re collecting today are likely 5, 10 or even 20 years old. On average, they were certainly not sold during the three-year window that a typical collection rate calculation would measure. A related issue to this is the general inclination that consumers “hoard” electronics and batteries long after their useful life. How many old cellphones do you have sitting in a drawer? When is the last time you used your first power tool?

These issues are particularly difficult for rechargeable batteries which generally last longer than primary batteries, are hoarded more (with the products they power) and are sold through much more complex value chains. So the conventional approach to assessing our performance using a collection rate just didn’t work.

We commissioned a study to see if we could develop a methodology that was repeatable, credible and defensible that would provide us more insight into this issue. When we started the study, we focused on two stages:,

  1. develop a way of accurately measuring battery sales; and
  2. adjust sales for the lifespan of the batteries.

The more we immersed ourselves into this subject, a third issue emerged that was in the initial research requirements.

Increasingly, rechargeable batteries are designed so that they cannot be easily removed by the consumer, which generally means that they are not typically available to be recycled. Cellphones, tablets and laptops are the most obvious examples of this. But how about electric toothbrushes and cordless shavers? Even when the host product is recycled by, let’s say, an electronics recycler, the batteries are not typically the material most coveted in the process. Therefore, even if they are technically recycled with the host product, the process has not often been optimized to reclaim the precious material in the battery.

We maintain that embedded batteries are not generally available for collection by a battery stewardship program and should be excluded from the calculation of “collection rate”. So we added a third stage of this research: adjust sales downward by the amount of embedded batteries in order to determine an accurate assessment of the amount of batteries truly available for collection.

The outcome of this research – the paper available via this link– shows our results. It gives us a new denominator called “available for collection” that would replace the EU standards of the average of the last three years’ sales. In the end, we now say:

Collection Rate = Batteries Collected / Sales (Lifespan) – Embedded Batteries

In addition to the important data generated through this research, we came away with four important observations consistent with the conversation above:

  • For primary batteries, battery sales from “bricks and mortar” retail locations are less and less of the total market. There are many more diverse channels for batteries to enter the marketplace including, in particular, on-line markets.
  • A new method for measuring collection rates is needed for rechargeable batteries to measure collection performance. Such a method must meaningfully capture longer battery and product lifecycles and increases in embedded batteries.
  • While some but not all of the products that rechargeable batteries power are managed through other stewardship programs, they are generally getting “lost” in tracking performance.
  • It is imperative that collection programs incorporate long product lifecycles into their funding models, as batteries remain in market long after they are sold.

The last point is notable. Most battery stewardship programs charge stewards based on sales into the market. However, there may be a 20-year lag time between when steward fees are paid on a sale and when we incur the cost to collect and recycle the battery from that sale. This puts a strain on funding models that are often forced to minimize reserves that might take care of the long-term “tail” associated with rechargeable batteries.

In the end, we felt we “moved the needle” on creating a better way to measure performance. We also added to the conversation on the issues associated with battery collection and recycling. But we don’t believe we’ve totally solved the challenges, hopefully giving others the opportunity to contribute to this discussion.

The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Global Product Stewardship Council.  

Carl E. Smith is President and CEO of Call2Recycle, Inc., North America’s leading product stewardship organization. With more than 35 years’ experience in environmental issues, program development, advocacy, corporate communications and technology, Carl is a nationally and internationally recognized spokesperson and leader in the corporate responsibility, sustainability and product stewardship arena. Carl leads the Atlanta-based non-for-profit organization in its efforts to help preserve the environment through responsible recycling of batteries among other products. Carl is also a GlobalPSC Executive Committee member and our Treasurer.

 

Call2Recycle Set New Battery Recycling Records in 2015

Posted by GlobalPSC at 12:16 pm, January 31st, 2016Comments1

 

Call2Recycle has reported that their collections increased five per cent during 2015 to a record 12.6 million pounds (5.7 million kilograms).

Since collections began in 1996, Call2Recycle has produced a year-over-year increase in the volume of batteries diverted from landfills and recycled for 19 consecutive years. Call2Recycle credits strong, collaborative relationships as the foundation for increasing consumer awareness and driving growing collection volumes. More than 90 percent of residents in the U.S. and Canada live within 10 miles (15 kilometers) of one of Call2Recycle’s public drop-off locations.

Over 7.1 million pounds (3.2 million kilograms) of batteries were collected in the U.S. in 2015, with the great lake states and mountain regions showing the greatest growth (12 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively). California collected more than 1 million pounds (0.45 million kilograms) of batteries for the 5th consecutive year.

Nearly 5.5 million pounds (2.5 million kilograms) of batteries were collected in Canada in 2015. Collections in British Columbia saw a 36 per cent increase in collections from last year, for a total of almost 1.4 million pounds (630,000 kilograms) of batteries.

“Our battery recycling results are directly linked to the vital support of our program participants, consumers and key constituents,” said Carl Smith, CEO & president of Call2Recycle. “Without their environmental commitment, we would not be able to continue collecting, and arguably become one of the most successful recycling programs in North America.”

 

10 Years of Mobile Phone Recycling Insights

Posted by GlobalPSC at 2:31 pm, October 22nd, 2015Comments1

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has released a report into how Australians’ attitudes to mobile phone use and recycling have changed over the past ten years showing that the gap between the number of mobiles used and consumer willingness to reuse and recycle is still excessive.

Despite record awareness of mobile phone recycling, Australians are still reluctant to part with old phones – some of which don’t even work.
“Australians are getting better at recycling, very few phones now go to landfill (down from 9% to 2%) and more and more phones are being recycled and resold.  However, like many countries across the globe the number of phones laying idle in homes has soared, up from 12 million to over 22.5 million in the past decade.  Almost one for every Australian.

“This represents a lost opportunity for reuse and recycling that enables materials to be put back into the supply chain, closing the loop, slowing the depletion of finite non-renewable resources and creating a circular economy,” comments Rose Read, Recycling Manager, MobileMuster (pictured below talking participants through the report’s findings).

“The research suggests that people still consider keeping their phone a better option than recycling even if it doesn’t work, will never be used and they know that it can be recycled. For many people keeping a phone is about having a backup and for more and more people it’s also about data security concerns.  But in reality how many backups do you need?”

Following the report’s launch and discussion of its findings, a panel discussed product stewardship for mobile phones and other electronics, including opportunities and barriers for reuse and recycling.

 

[Panel participants L-R: Peter Brisbane, Director, Stewardship and Waste, Department of Environment; James Chin Moody, Founder and CEO, Sendle; Dr Ruth Lane, School of Social Sciences, Monash University; Matthew Lobb, AMTA Chairman & General Manager, Industry Strategy and Public Policy, Vodafone Hutchison Australia. Not pictured: John Fieschi, Head of Buy Back and Financial Services, Brightstar]

Additional insights, MobileMuster Annual Reports and other publications are available here.

Call2Recycle 2014 Annual Report

Posted by GlobalPSC at 4:20 pm, May 21st, 2015Comments1

20th Anniversary Badge

Call2Recycle®, North America’s most successful battery collection program, has released its 2014 Annual Report. Call2Recycle attributes their 20 years of growth directly back to the investment of time, money and ideas by their stewards, partners and stakeholders. Two historic milestones are noted for 2014: cumulative battery collections of 100 million pounds (45 million kilograms) and 18 years of year-over-year increases in the volume of batteries collected. Other highlights include:

  • In 2014, Call2Recycle diverted nearly 12 million pounds (5.4 million kilograms) of batteries and cellphones from landfills
  • Battery collections in California topped more than 1 million pounds (454,000 kilograms) for the 3rd straight year
  • Collections in Canada reached over 2.2 million kilograms (4.4 million pounds) of batteries collected, and the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec recorded double-digit collection growth

 

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