Legislative measure would require manufacturers to take back batteries, helping to keep them out of landfills

Denton Record-Chronicle
By Caitlyn Jones
Original Story Here

There comes a point in every person’s life when the TV remote control batteries need to be changed.

You purchase a fresh pack at the grocery store and pop open the cover to take out the tiny energizers that have served your binge-watching needs valiantly. But then you stop.

You look at the AAs in your hand, then to the trash can. Deep down, you know it’s bad to just throw them away. But what are you supposed to do?

You may not get any help from the Texas Legislature this year, but there are local options that will help your environmentally conscious mind sleep soundly at night.

The bill

As the state legislative session pushes forward, one bill put forth by Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie, aims to tackle the growing number of batteries that show up in Texas landfills.

House Bill 1874, known as the Battery Takeback Recycling Bill, would require battery manufacturers to take back used household batteries — think AAs, AAAs, Cs or Ds — at no cost and properly dispose of them. The program would be similar to recycling laws already on the books for television and computer manufacturers.

Like a previous version of the bill proposed in 2015, HB 1874 has stalled in the House Environmental Regulation committee and is unlikely to gain traction with the session ending at the end of May.

The harm

Household batteries are deemed “universal waste” by the Environmental Protection Agency. This means that, although they are considered hazardous, they are produced in such large quantities that they aren’t subject to more severe disposal regulations.

David Dugger, the manager of the Denton landfill, said heavy metals from used batteries can seep into leachate, or water that runs through trash and collects at the bottom of a landfill.

“If you’re trying to treat that leachate, it could raise your costs as you try to get those contaminants out,” he said.

Dugger said Denton doesn’t treat its leachate but rather pumps it back through the waste to break down natural materials. That produces more methane gas, which is transferred to a generating system that provides a portion of the city with electricity.

But Denton is an outlier.

According to the Texas Campaign for the Environment, an estimated 3 billion batteries ended up in landfills nationwide last year with roughly 250 million of those landing in Texas.

The reclamation

Dugger said Denton residents can hand off their expired batteries through the city’s home chemical collections program. In addition to other hazardous chemicals, community members can package their used batteries and schedule a free pickup by calling 940-349-8080.

Last year alone, the program kept 54 tons of hazardous chemicals out of the Denton landfill.

“We always like to make sure things go through proper disposal channels and I think our programs reflect that,” Dugger said.

Computer Crusher Recycling, located at 2141 Collins Road in Denton, also recycles a wide variety of batteries.

Sales manager Brad Chism said the company typically deals with lead-acid batteries stripped from computer hardware, but will recycle practically every type of battery. He said the shop recycles about 1,500 pounds of batteries in an average month.

“People are very grateful that we’re here and that we’re an option,” Chism said. “We try to take in as much as we can recycle responsible.”

To drop off used batteries or other electronics, swing by Computer Crushers from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 

How grassroots groups are mobilizing Texans on top issues

Texas Tribune
By Alex Samuels
Original Story Here

Five community organizers tell us how they rally people around issues like school funding and the environment.

Corey Troiani
Dallas-Fort Worth program director, Texas Campaign for the Environment

Key issues: safer regulations for the disposal of sludge waste, preserving local options to restrict single-use check-out bags and expanding access to recycling and composting programs in cities
Location: Austin, Dallas and Houston
Number of members: Approximately 30,000
Get involved: Website or Facebook


“When you have strength in numbers, those lawmakers are counting you as constituent voters in their district and they’re going to take that seriously.”

— Corey Troiani

What kinds of organizing methods are most effective and why?

Corey Troiani: The leading organizing method that we use is face-to-face organizing. We send canvassers into communities to talk directly to constituents of state lawmakers and residents of Texas who care about environmental issues. I think talking to people face-to-face is the best way to get them engaged, involved and invested in issues like these.

Biggest challenges in getting people to engage around your issue?

CT: I think one of the challenges that we face is this sort of “armchair activism,” where people sit back and sign a petition or take some sort of action through a website and feel like that is their contribution to an issue. We can’t just sign a single petition and expect legislation to change.

How do local movements play at the state level and impact the state debate?

CT: I think grassroots and local groups have an impact because, regardless of where you are in the state, grassroots organizations are working with strength in numbers. Assuming that you have a good campaign strategy, you’re putting pressure on a state lawmaker or some other target that you can have an impact with. When you have strength in numbers, those lawmakers are counting you as constituent voters in their district and they’re going to take that seriously.

What kind of engagement are you seeing post-election?

CT: I’m seeing that people are understanding that politics is important and that participating is important. Somebody who just thought, “I’m going to go vote at the polls every couple of years or every four years,” is now somebody who wants to know when their local representative is having a town hall meeting and going to that.

Plastic bag ban protection wins hearing at Texas Capitol

Austin American-Statesman
By Asher Price

AUSTIN – In the pre-dawn darkness Tuesday, friends Lila Mankad and Caoilin Krathaus, both 11-years-old, piled into a car in Houston with each of their fathers to deliver a message to lawmakers in Austin: Ban single-use plastic bags.

The two kids, who started an organization called Bag-free Bayous, arrived at the Capitol to discourage lawmakers from striking down bag bans in about a dozen cities around Texas, including Austin.

The persistent problems of bags hanging from trees and choking waterways “give our bayous a bad reputation,” Caoilin said.

She and Lila regularly clean their neighborhood park of plastic bags — only to see them soon reappear. For about a year now, they have gathered petitions to push Houston to ban plastic bags.

At a news conference and outside the Texas House chamber, they were surrounded by adults dressed as a cow, a goat and a sea turtle — wildlife that environmentalists say are at risk from plastic bags blowing into waterways or rangeland.

“Bags get blown around, get stuck on barbed wire, and I eat ‘em,” said the cow, played by Jeffrey Jacoby, a staffer with Texas Campaign for the Environment. “When I eat plastic bags, it hurts me; sometimes it might even kill me, and my family, and it’s going to cost my owner a lot of money.”

The kids — and the livestock — face long odds at a Capitol where lawmakers have long angled to dismantle local bag bans, and where the governor has suggested they amount to an abrogation of personal liberty.

In an interview, Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, said bag bans interfere with the “consumer relationship with the retailer, disadvantages the poor, and hinders the overall convenience factor.”

Springer, who has tried ending such bans in the past, said they are “a slippery slope to what we’ve seen in New York City, where they regulate the size of soft drinks, or the amount of salt in our diet. It’s the nanny state.”

Even as conservative lawmakers hope that courts will soon block policies in a dozen or more Texas cities to limit the use of plastic bags at the checkout counter, an effort to shield bag bans like Austin’s won a hearing Tuesday before a Texas House committee, prompting the visit by Lila and Caoilin.

The proposal, by Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, comes in response to a key August court decision now under appeal.

The ruling by a San Antonio-based state appeals court to toss out Laredo’s ban on store-provided checkout bags technically has no immediate effect on similar bans outside the court’s 32-county South Texas district, which does not include Austin.

In its ruling, the 4th Court of Appeals said Laredo’s bag ban was preempted by a state law that says cities cannot “prohibit or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package.”

Store-provided bags, the court ruled, are containers under the law.

Hoping to insulate city bag bans from the courts, Hinojosa proposes to add a line to state code that says “‘package or container’ does not include a single-use plastic bag.”

Meanwhile, all sides have appealed the San Antonio court’s ruling to the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court, hoping for broader clarity.

“We’re looking for the Supreme Court to see (the bag bans) repealed once and for all,” Springer said at a conservative policy confab in January.

Phil Rozenski, an officer at Novolex, which manufactures plastic bags and packaging material, said at the same policy conference that the bag bans amount to “regulation at any cost.”

Environmentalists say that even if the Texas Supreme Court doesn’t take the case, bag bans across the state remain vulnerable.

“If they don’t take up the case, our foes are going to use a court of appeals decision to threaten to sue outside that district,” said Robin Schneider, director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment.