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The connection between Spectrum Brands, the maker of Rayovac batteries, and the Clean Lakes Alliance is prompting a protest Saturday at one of the Clean Lakes Alliance’s biggest annual fundraisers, the Clean Lakes Festival.
The protest, coordinated by the Texas Campaign for the Environment, is being held to apply pressure to Middleton-based Spectrum Brands to create a process or actively promote legislation that allows people to recycle rather than throw away their alkaline and rechargeable batteries.
“We need to call them out on this double standard,” said Robin Schneider, an activist with Texas Campaign for the Environment. “They are providing recycling for people in Europe and Canada, but not in the United States, its home country.”
According to Schneider, rechargeable batteries contain highly toxic materials and alkaline batteries can corrode landfill liners, allowing other toxins to more easily pollute soil and groundwater.
Spectrum-Rayovac has been the target of environmentalists since it pulled out of discussions in 2011 with Energizer, Duracell and Panasonic to create a national single-use battery take-back program. Efforts have stalled since then.
Spectrum is a prominent supporter of the Clean Lakes Alliance and one of its main fundraising events, the Clean Lakes Festival.
The Saturday demonstration will be held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., beginning at B.B. Clarke Beach on Lake Monona, with participants then moving to the site of the Clean Lakes Festival in Law Park, near Monona Terrace.
Protesters plan to be dressed like pirates, with some scheduled to be in boats on Lake Monona with banners criticizing Spectrum Brands for Rayovac’s poor recycling record.
“We looked at the report card for the Clean Lakes Alliance. It talks about water clarity, temperature and phosphorus, but they refuse to address toxics in the lakes,” Schneider said. “There is a toxic legacy in Madison lakes and many different toxic issues this organization will not address.”
Dave Lumley, Spectrum’s chief executive officer, is a staunch supporter of the Clean Lakes Alliance, a Madison-based organization created in 2011 with a goal to clean up Madison’s lakes. A major goal of the group is to cut the amount of phosphorus in the polluted lakes in half by 2025.
Lumley was a keynote speaker at the Clean Lakes Alliance’s Save Our Lakes community breakfast in April. Event attendees pledged $40,000 to the nonprofit.
Lumley never chaired the clean Lakes Alliance board, as the environmental activist incorrectly stated, but he was on the 32-member community board until 2012 and is still listed as a 2014 community board member on the Clean Lakes website. But Don Heilman, executive director of the Clean Lakes Alliance, said in an email Monday that Lumley hasn’t attended a meeting in two years.
“Our focus is on cleaning up the lakes with the primary goal being the reduction of phosphorus entering them,” Heilman said in an emailed statement responding to news of the protest. “We are grateful for the support Spectrum Brands has given to these efforts.”
Another top Spectrum executive, Stacey Neu, is on the 2014 Clean Lakes Alliance executive board. Neu is the company’s vice president of human resources.
Heilman deferred all environmental questions related to battery recycling to David Pritchard, a Spectrum-Rayovac spokesman. Pritchard did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
“We think we need to hold Spectrum accountable for its ongoing pollution and the pollution that is coming,” Schneider said. “It will not take responsibility for the end of life of its products.”
Another protest is planned for 4 p.m., Friday, at Spectrum’s Middleton headquarters. Activists have 25,000 letters from consumers requesting it recycle its batteries, which activists will attempt to deliver to company executives.
They also will be chanting at workers leaving for the weekend, while hoisting a 90-square-foot banner featuring a skull and crossed batteries to represent a “toxic” symbol.
Progressive Dane and the Midwest Environmental Justice Organization also will be participating in the protests.
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