West Van high school students collect 1,750 pounds of batteries

Jessie Lin (left) and Joanne Fernando from West Vancouver secondary school
Jessie Lin (left) and Joanne Fernando from West Vancouver secondary school's Recycling Club asked district council for $180 to upgrade their battery recycling bins.
— image credit: Michaela Garstin

It's easy to toss a couple batteries into the garbage because, unlike cardboard and pop cans, they're small enough that no one will notice.

But a group of West Vancouver high school students is working hard to make people think twice about not recycling.

Last year, the club collected 1,750 pounds of batteries from ten apartment buildings, the West Van library, seniors centres and grocery stores. West Van residents are now recycling about double the national average.

"Sometimes it's not convenient to recycle batteries, and we've found we need to make it easy," said Jessie Lin from West Van secondary's Recycling Club.

Batteries can't be added to household recycling bins along with paper, plastic bottles and cans. And it turns out most people aren't willing to travel far to recycle, Lin said, so boxes in apartment lobbies work best.

A discarded battery, said club member Joanne Fernando, can cause cause a whole square metre of soil to become unusable forever. Batteries contain five heavy metals that leach into the soil and groundwater, making them more toxic to the environment than plastic bottles.

Late last year, the students asked West Van district council for $405 for educational materials and to upgrade their recycling bins so more businesses would allow them, in addition to help with advertising within the municipality. They expect to hear back within the next couple months.

"Our main problem is single-family houses," said Fernando, adding the best option is to put the boxes where families often go, like grocery stores and the library.

Asking other students to collect batteries has also been a success. Ridgeview elementary handed over 30 pounds of batteries in two weeks.

"We want to make batteries one of the things people always recycle," said Lin, adding the club hopes to cover all of West Van eventually.

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