ISRI has partnered with the State of South Carolina to launch “Take Charge: Be Battery Smart.” The public education campaign is designed to increase the public’s understanding of the health and environmental benefits of safely recycling household batteries. It is a joint effort between ISRI and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), with support from several partner organizations.

South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette joined Myra Reece, director of DHEC environmental affairs, and ISRI’s Cheryl Coleman, senior vice president of advocacy, sustainability, and safety at a news conference this week to promote “Take Charge: Be Battery Smart.” The educational campaign focuses on the importance of properly using and recycling household batteries, particularly lithium-ion batteries, which are a type of rechargeable battery.

“The ‘Take Charge: Be Battery Smart’ campaign is a bold first step toward educating the public on the dangers of improperly storing and disposing of batteries — and raising awareness on this growing problem,” said ISRI President Robin Wiener. “Educating the public on this critical issue is important for the safety of our member companies and employees — and also for first responders and the communities around us. We are proud to partner with the South Carolina DHEC to launch this important campaign that will ultimately keep South Carolinians out of harm’s way.”

“This is an important initiative that affects every South Carolina family,” said Lieutenant Governor Pamela S. Evette. “This campaign will help educate families about the hidden dangers of batteries and the economic benefits of recycling. By responsibly managing batteries, we not only protect our loved ones but also contribute to preserving the critical minerals that make up batteries.”

Batteries are required for many household essentials, such as remote controls, kids’ toys, clocks and watches, cell phones, laptops and more. Batteries come in various chemistries, types and sizes to fit different uses. Household batteries are safe to use when properly following the manufacturer’s instructions; however, damaged or improperly stored, used or disposed of batteries — particularly rechargeable lithium-ion batteries — can explode or catch fire.

Another critical focus of Be Battery Smart is educating the public about the choking hazards posed by small, shiny button batteries. Children are especially at risk for serious injury or even death if they swallow a button battery or put one inside their ear or nose. DHEC and ISRI encourage parents, guardians and caregivers to be informed of how dangerous the small round coin or button batteries can be.

A national study published in 2022 by Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide Children’s Hospital showed that a child aged 18 or under visited an emergency room every 75 minutes with a battery-related injury, and button batteries accounted for an estimated 85% of those cases.

“The ‘Take Charge: Be Battery Smart’ campaign addresses the lack of consumer awareness about the proper use and management of batteries, which have become such a commonplace item in our day-to-day lives,” said Myra Reece, DHEC’s director of environmental affairs. “We want South Carolinians to understand that household batteries need to be properly recycled in order to limit the potential harm they can cause to people and the environment.”

Lithium-ion batteries, which are a popular type of rechargeable battery, are easy to puncture and can cause fires in garbage trucks, recycling centers and landfills. This can injure those essential workers, including the firefighters who respond to those fires. A 2021 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that, between 2013 and 2020, at least 245 fires at 64 solid waste facilities were caused or likely caused by lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries.

The Call2Recycle program offers about 16,000 drop-off sites nationwide for household battery recycling, including Best Buy, Lowe’s and The Home Depot. The retailer Batteries Plus also offers recycling options. Additionally, some South Carolina counties have household hazardous material collection programs or collection events that accept certain types of batteries, both single-use and rechargeable.

“Properly recycling batteries keeps millions of pounds of potentially harmful materials in use and out of the landfill and reclaims critical metals such as cobalt and lithium needed for the manufacturing of new products,” said Reece. “Recycling — and recycling batteries in particular — is one of the ways to a sustainable economy and healthy environment.”