Award-winning New Jersey students recycle batteries and educate public

Members of student-run Recycle My Battery, including its founder, Nihal Tammana, an eighth grader from Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Edison who recently received a prestigious award, met with State Senator Patrick Diegnan to discuss the nonprofit’s mission.

Since its inception in 2019, Recycle My Battery, which heightens awareness about the hazards improperly disposed consumer batteries pose to the environment and recycling centers, has collected nearly 200,000 consumer batteries for safe recycling.

“As a result of this group I learned – and I’m sure I’m not alone on this one – how to properly recycle batteries,” said Diegnan, who presented members of the Recycle My Battery team with citations. “I congratulate these young leaders for the work they are doing and thank them for taking the initiative to bring this important issue to our attention.”

The Recycle My Battery team has partnered with Call2Recycle, the country’s leader in consumer battery stewardship and recycling, to place more than 400 free collection bins at various locations including New Jersey schools, municipal libraries and other public places.

After receiving permission from Edison Township Public Schools to place recycling bins in the district’s 19 schools, Tammana was emboldened to recruit other students across New Jersey and the country to follow his lead.

Recycle My Battery now has more than 250 student members in more than a dozen states, as well as representatives in other countries.

The all-volunteer group has received multiple national and state honors for its work including a Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award and a Department of Environmental Protection Award.

Earlier this week, Tammana was the recipient of a 2022 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes award.

The Barron Prize, founded in 2021 by author T.A. Barron and named after his mother, annually honors 25 outstanding young leaders who have made a significant positive impact on people, their communities, and the environment. Fifteen top winners each receive $10,000 to support their service work or higher education.

“Nothing is more inspiring than stories about heroic people who have truly made a difference to the world,” T. A. Barron said in a press release. “And we need our heroes today more than ever. Not celebrities, but heroes, people whose character can inspire us all.”

During his visit to Diegnan’s legislative office, Tammana, 13, told the senator improperly discarded batteries are disposed of in landfills, where they pollute groundwater, harm the ecosystem, and can cause catastrophic fires.

Joining Tammana for the visit were other leaders from Recycle My Battery including fellow Central Jersey students Isha Yerra, Shyam Kandala and Agrim Chopra, who range in age from elementary through high school.

According to multiple reports, Americans throw away approximately 3 million batteries each year.

Through education and facilitation, Recycle My Battery aims to increase the rate of sustainable battery disposal to help the environment, while also cautioning the public that improperly discarding rechargeable and button cell batteries in curbside trash and recycling bins can be dangerous.

“There are hidden dangers tied to improper handling and disposal of batteries at their end-of-life,” according to Call2Recycle. “Many are unaware of these dangers, which are causing an increasing number of fires across recycling centers, waste facilities and garbage trucks, and resulting in millions of dollars in physical damage and putting lives in danger.”

Many batteries can pose environmental hazards if improperly handled. Rechargeable batteries, such as those commonly found in cordless power tools, cordless phones, laptop computers, cellphones, cameras, two-way radios and other devices, must be properly disposed.

In addition to Recycle My Battery’s collection bins, rechargeable batteries can be recycled at many retail locations and at municipalities that participate in the Call2Recycle program. The nearest location can be found here.

Middlesex County also has valuable information about recycling batteries on its website.

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