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Closed-Loop Solutions Ramp Up Recycling Rates for Batteries, Contact Lenses

While coffee cup recycling is just beginning to gather steam, previously hard-to-recycle products such as lead batteries and contacts are demonstrating surprisingly high recycling rates.

A new study released by Battery Council International (BCI) and America Recycles Day has found that lead batteries have a recycling rate of 99.3 percent, making them the number-one recycled consumer product in the United States. The near-perfect rate of recycling is attributed to industry investment in a state-of-the-art closed-loop collection and recycling system that keeps 1.7 million tons of batteries out of landfills each year.

“Our goal for the lead battery manufacturing process is to collect, recycle and reuse lead batteries and their components. In essence, to create a ‘closed-loop industry’ that significantly reduces the demand on global resources,” said Mark Thorsby, EVP of BCI.

According to Thorsby, new lead batteries are comprised of more than 80 percent recycled lead battery material. From lead and plastic to sulfuric acid, every part of the battery is recyclable and reusable in manufacturing new batteries. “This reduces the need for new lead mining, reduces waste and helps keep lead out of landfills,” Thorsby added.

The findings of the National Recycling Rate Study echo data collected by the EPA in 2014, which demonstrate a lead battery recovery rate of almost 99 percent, the highest recycling rate among other more well-known recycled products, such as newspapers (63 percent), aluminum cans (55.1 percent), tires (40.5 percent), glass containers (32.5 percent) and PET bottles (32.2 percent).

As the most accessible battery technology, lead batteries play an important role in powering solutions that reduce CO2 emissions, such as hybrid and electric vehicles and smart grid technology.

The closed-loop process that ensures lead batteries’ high rate of recycling is recognized by the World Economic Forum and MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics as the world’s most successful example of a circular economy — featuring the design, production, transportation, recycling and recovery of vehicle batteries.


Meanwhile, Bausch + Lomb, a subsidiary of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc., has shared that its ONE by ONE Recycling Program for contact lenses has recycled a combined total of more than one million used contact lenses, blister packs and top foils in less than one year since its launch. In collaboration with TerraCycle, the program has diverted more than 7,000 pounds of waste from landfills to-date.

In addition to diverting waste, the program donates a $1 for every pound of accepted packaging received to Optometry Giving Sight, the only global fundraising initiative that specifically targets the prevention of blindness and impaired vision by providing eye exams and glasses to those in need.

“We are globally committed to environmental sustainability while also delivering innovations that meet the needs of our physicians and their patients,” said Joseph C. Papa, Chairman and CEO of Valeant. “We are proud of the ONE by ONE Recycling Program, which has made significant strides in its first year by helping to reduce contact lens waste as well as helping to provide basic vision care to those who are in need.”

Despite being composed of recyclable plastic or foil, contact lenses and their packaging often end up being filtered out of most standard recycling centers due to their small size. Currently, the end-to-end trail of waste generated from contact lens packaging annually in the US could circle the earth three times. The ONE by ONE Recycling Program provides contact lens wearers the opportunity to properly recycle their used materials and reduce the amount of waste deposited to landfills across the country.

To participate in the program, contact lens wearers can print a free ONE by ONE shipping label and send their used blister packs, top foil and contact lenses via any UPS location or drop off their waste at a participating doctor’s office.

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