In addition to selling new batteries, owners Howard Van Sant, Melvin Horne and Jim Berry buy back old, dead batteries to rejuvenate and resell, or to recycle.
Just a year or two ago, Horne, Van Sant and Berry saw an opportunity to fill a niche that very few businesses in the United States fill; “it’s a pretty interesting green project” asserts Horne.
The Battery Exchange owners buy and sell commercial batteries and batteries for motorized vehicles (including automotive, golf cart, wheelchair, motorcycle and marine batteries). Of the batteries that they buy, they retain salvageable batteries for rejuvenation and resale, and recycle the rest.
Not many businesses focus so exclusively on recycling and re-energizing batteries, even though it is a process that is both financially and environmentally beneficial.
Buying dead batteries keeps them out of the landfill, says Van Sant. He also divulges that 30-40 percent of the dead batteries that the business buys can be refurbished and made “like new.” The re-energized batteries are then resold at a fraction of the price of a new battery (customers can save up to 60 percent when they buy a previously used battery, rather than a new one) and come with a one-year replacement warranty.
Batteries that cannot be refurbished are instead recycled, yet another way that the Battery Exchange keeps dead batteries and their harmful materials out of delicate ecosystems and safely away from unsuspecting human contact.
All of the recycling and re-energizing efforts of the battery exchange are completed by the business itself, in a facility across the street from their retail center.
The Battery Exchange is located at 140 First Ave. NE, in Cairo 229-216-3002. They are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday.
The benefits of reusing and recycling batteries to prevent them from entering landfills or being incinerated with household waste are numerous.
Batteries generate power by way of a reaction between a heavy metal and a chemical electrolyte. When the battery dies, it still contains heavy metals that can be harmful to human health and the environment if they are not disposed of properly. Many household batteries, for example, contain mercury which produces toxic airborne emissions if it is burned that can damage the central nervous system.
Toxins from batteries in landfills can also seep into the soil, ground water and surface water, causing harmful environmental and health effects. Cadmium, found in many rechargeable batteries, can be taken up by plant roots and may accumulate in fruits and vegetables intended for consumption.
Prolonged or acute exposure to cadmium has been linked to a number of negative physical and psychological effects. The EPA also suspects cadmium to be carcinogenic. Horne says he wonders why anyone would throw out their old batteries when they have the option to bring them in to the Battery Exchange for cash, instead.
While the Battery Exchange exclusively deals with larger, motorized vehicle and commercial batteries, its efforts are a step toward more comprehensive, local battery reuse and recycling programs that might someday extend to household batteries, too.
In addition to its dedication to the environment, the Battery Exchange also supports the efforts of the volunteer organization “Kids Against Hunger,” another of Battery Exchange owner Melvin Horne’s projects.
A percentage of sales at the Battery Exchange goes toward buying dry foods – such as rice, soybeans and vitamin supplements – that Kids Against Hunger purchases in bulk and packages in meal-sized portions to ship out to people in need all over the world.
The 9-year-old Cairo chapter of Kids Against Hunger was involved in shipping food to tsunami victims in 2005, as well as victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Cairo’s Kids Against Hunger volunteers continue to package and ship hundreds of thousands of meal packets annually, with the help of donors like the Battery Exchange.