Back from the Dead

Battery Solutions in Howell recycles spent batteries with startling efficiency.


Published:

Battery Solutions in Howell is the only battery recycler in the country. Nearly everything in a battery is recycled, including plastic, steel, brass, zinc, and manganese.

Ever wonder what happens to old batteries? Thomas Bjarnemark, CEO of Battery Solutions in Howell, operates the only battery recycler in the United States. With a second location in Brighton, the company takes in huge industrial batteries, tiny AAA alkalines, and pretty much every other kind of battery in between.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, each year Americans throw away more than 3 billion (or about 180,000 tons) of batteries. Bjarnemark has bigger plans for all those spent power units. “In most states, it’s legal to put alkaline batteries in the landfill,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.”

At Battery Solutions, the goal is to break the batteries down and reuse everything. According to Bjarnemark, the company strives for an unattainable Recycling Efficiency Rate of 100 percent — meaning everything is completely recycled, resulting in zero waste. Last year, Battery Solutions had an RER of 97 percent.

For Battery Solutions, the whole process starts with sorting. “There are different ways to recycle different kinds of batteries,” Bjarnemark says, “so we have to manually sort all the batteries first.”

After the batteries are sorted, the alkaline units go through a shredding machine, where they’re pulverized into a black powder. The shredder also separates plastic, steel, and brass. The powder that remains is mostly zinc and manganese.

“The zinc and manganese are sold to make fertilizer for farmers,” Bjarnemark says. “It’s going right back into the food supply.”

The bits of steel are collected and sold to steel mills, while brass and bits of plastic are sold and reused. Nothing gets thrown away.

For some types of batteries, the process can be messier. “Some batteries, you could go to jail if you put them in a landfill,” Bjarnemark says. “They have to be recycled.”

The recycling processes for batteries that contain lead, mercury, and cadmium are heavily regulated by the government.

Last year, Battery Solutions recycled more than 50 million pounds of batteries, and things are likely going to get busier.

“This is a business that’s growing fast,” Bjarnemark says. “Batteries are everywhere — laptops, cell phones, iPads, and power tools. The big thing now is electric vehicles. Sooner or later, those kinds of batteries will have to be recycled.”

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

By the Numbers

Jeffrey Sachs grew up in Oak Park, then made his mark as an economist and director of Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Development in New York City.

Factory of Prosperity

A nonprofit organization in Detroit is transforming unused school facilities into business and community ecosystems.

No Vacancy

The region’s apartment sector is surging, having recovered from the 2008 global financial crisis and Detroit’s successful run through bankruptcy in 2014.

Friend Robot

For the next three years, the hugely popular FIRST Robotics competition will be held in Detroit.

PDA: Q&A Peter J. Ginapolis

The E-Interview Peter J. Ginapolis, Vice President, LSG Insurance Partners, Bloomfield Township
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. CarbonTV in Southfield to Operate Under Sole Ownership, Redesign Coming in 2018
    Southfield’s CarbonTV, a global leader in offering OTT outdoor, online streaming content via a...
  2. Detroit Economic Growth Corp. Names Kevin Johnson as President and CEO
    Detroit Economic Growth Corp., a quasi-public development agency, today announced it has...
  3. Shield’s Restaurant and Pizzeria in Troy Slated for $1M Remodel, Gets New Partner
    Troy’s Shield’s Restaurant and Pizzeria, located at 1476 W. Maple Road, has added a new...
  4. Johan de Nysschen Leaving Cadillac, GM Announces New Senior Vice President and President
    Detroit’s General Motors Co. today announced the appointment of Steve Carlisle to senior vice...
  5. Ann Arbor’s Domino’s Pizza Activates Hotspots Across America for Delivery to Locations Without Addresses
    Domino’s Pizza Inc. in Ann Arbor Township today announced more than 150,000 Domino’s Wi-Fi...
  6. Hunter Pasteur Homes to Acquire Northville Downs Harness Racing Track, New Plans Call for up to 600 Residences
    Hunter Pasteur Homes, a developer and luxury home builder in Farmington Hills, is under contract...