Li-ion batteries collected for recycling

The two nationwide projects will collect household batteries and help improve access to recycling programs in underserved communities. | Vietnam Stock Photos/Shutterstock

Two battery recycling projects will add drop-off locations at hundreds of Staples and Batteries Plus across the country thanks to U.S. Department of Energy funds, the agency announced this week.

The projects will add a combined 1,000 consumer drop-off sites, many of them in Justice40 areas that are often underserved by environmental programs, the DOE said in a press release.

The grants are funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. With this funding, the DOE is working to help build a domestic recycling network for batteries to strengthen the domestic supply chain for EV materials, such as nickel, lithium, cobalt, manganese, copper and graphite, according to the announcement. 

“Retailers can play a vital role in making recycling accessible and easy for consumers,” the department said in a written statement. “Retailer storefronts visited by consumers are prime locations for battery collection. Collection points can also serve as an incentive for consumers to visit store fronts.”

The projects will collect various types, including household single-use batteries.

Each of the two selected projects stated the federal portion of the cost at around $7 million.  Before issuing the funding, the DOE and the applicants will undergo a negotiation process, according to the release.    

In the spring, the DOE announced 17 projects that would receive funds that aimed to improve consumer access to battery recycling and to improve the economics of battery processing.

Increasing access and reducing fees

Staples aims to install battery recycling centers in most Staples stores, with a goal to increase by approximately 375 stores over three years. 

In September 2022, Staples launched an improved national recycling services program, the company said in its funding application. 

“Our renewed focus on recycling services made recycling easy, accessible, and convenient for consumers and community members,” Staples wrote, which put the federal share of costs at around $7 million. 

As part of the program, Staples implemented dedicated recycling centers within approximately 8% of its approximately 1,000 stores as of Aug. 1, 2023. 

“These centers not only made our recycling efforts more visible to customers but also enhanced our capacity to manage larger volumes of recyclables,” the company said in the application.

With help from the new centers, the company collected nearly 1 million batteries across all U.S. Staples stores, which it said was only a small fraction of batteries in the market. Staples aims to use the program to help accelerate the growth of consumer recycling programs to help develop a robust supply chain for EV battery materials.

Batteries Plus aims to encourage consumer participation in its recycling program by launching a marketing campaign and partnerships with professional sports teams, and by eliminating recycling fees to help with its focus on reaching underserved communities, the company said in its funding application. 

Batteries Plus also will develop a new workstation to streamline battery sorting and packaging, reducing labor time and costs, and sharing this innovation with other retailers to strengthen efficiencies and circularity of the battery supply chain, the company wrote. Batteries Plus has more than 700 stores nationwide.

More stories about batteries