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Residents to town: Bring back the battery recycling receptacle

battery bag

Who knew a battery recycling container could be so popular?

After removing the receptacle that’s been stationed outside Riverhead Town Hall for more than 10 years last Wednesday, town officials said they are now receiving complaints from residents who want the container back.

So the Town Board has decided to return it.

On May 19, on the wall behind where the container had been, a sign went up saying the state Department of Environmental Conservation has declared that it’s safe to throw away alkaline and carbon zinc batteries with the household garbage. This includes AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt batteries.

According to the sign, it’s not safe to throw out rechargeable batteries containing mercury, cadmium, lead or lithium — which includes batteries for cars, hearing aids, watches, computers and other items — since these contain hazardous components.

battery sign

“We’re getting complaints,” Supervisor Sean Walter said to assistant town engineer Drew Dillingham, who was speaking before the board on a different matter. “You guys took the battery recycling thing away. I know you can throw the regular batteries away with the trash but not the lithium ones.”

“If we allow that, we have to have someone sort all the batteries,” Mr. Dillingham said. “It took three guys a full day to go through the batteries and sort them,” he said, adding that the sanitation department only has two employees now.

“How often do they do that?” Mr. Walter asked. “That lasts about a month before they fill it up.”

“So every month, they’re going to be sorting batteries for two days instead of picking up trash,” Mr. Dillingham said.

“Can we put the thing back because people have come to know and love it?” Mr. Walter asked.

“People are just going to throw them in the garbage,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said.

“There’s a bag on the floor now,” Councilman Jim Wooten said, referring to a plastic bag full of batteries that someone left where the recycling receptacle used to be.

Mr. Walter also suggested getting two recycling containers, one for alkaline batteries and one for lithium ion and cadmium batteries.

He said people have been bringing batteries and electronic waste to his office since the container was removed.

Mr. Walter said if having two containers is too difficult, to “just get a container and do what we did before, because I don’t want them in my office.”

Batteries also can be disposed of during the town’s twice-yearly Stop Throwing Out Pollutants (STOP) day, and some retailers accept rechargeable batteries for return, according to officials.

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Photo: A plastic bag with batteries was left on the spot where Riverhead’s battery recycling container used to be. (Credit: Tim Gannon)