Shipping innovation keeps North America's largest free battery recycler, Call2Recycle, charging hard.
After collecting its first batteries for recycling in 1996, Atlanta-based nonprofit Call2Recycle diverted more than 84 million pounds of rechargeable batteries from landfills. Since 2007, North America's largest free rechargeable battery and cellphone collection organization has reclaimed 900,000 boxes of used batteries.
Learn how a nonprofit simplified battery recycling.
Those figures electrify, especially if you add that Call2Recycle serves 30,000 collection sites. Today 89 percent of the United States population lives within a 10-mile radius of a Call2Recycle battery drop-off site, which includes retail stores, businesses and municipalities.
"We're trying to make battery recycling part of everyday life," says Linda Gabor, vice president of marketing and customer service.
Many happy returns
A key to Call2Recycle's green work is a brown package car.
"Battery recycling is typically not the core business or focus of organizations that collect the batteries we salvage," Gabor says. "To get maximum participation, our collection process must tie seamlessly to the customer's operations. With UPS's pickup scheduling and driver en route notifications, our customers can plan more effectively, minimizing any impact on their day-to-day operations."
How to galvanize customers to recycle batteries?
UPS helped create a special shipping system for Call2Recycle that works like the returns process at traditional businesses.
To collect, it ships empty 13-inch by 8-inch by 8-inch boxes to retailers and other customers. (The specially designed boxes help prevent battery terminals from touching.) When a box fills with used batteries, the collecting customer simply seals it (boxes are pre-affixed with UPS Authorized Return Service® labels).
"Call2Recycle obtained a Department of Transportation special permit that allows us to pick up and ship collections for Call2Recycle," says Ryan McLaurin, UPS senior account manager. "Nothing else is required – no hazmat paperwork, no special permits."
The permit rewards recyclers and transporters with convenience and cost-savings while maintaining DOT and EPA requirements.
Batteries in bulk
Call2Recycle's partnership with UPS led to a solution for larger, harder-to-manage loads, shipped via less than truckload (LTL) freight. With a special UPS application programming interface (API) for shipping, collectors now ship LTL loads to Call2Recycle's sorting and processing partners Inmetco and Wistron GreenTech. Based on growth projections for Call2Recyle, the nonprofit is able to save 15 to 20 percent on LTL shipping rates, McLaurin says.
"We are saving approximately $40,000 in administrative costs due to the API integration," says Stephen O'Brien, managing director of operations at Call2Recycle.
"We want to demonstrate best-of-class practices in our industry," Gabor says. "[The] shipping API really took the guesswork out of customer bulk shipping for us. UPS Freight® pickup notifications for LTL shipments have dramatically helped our bulk shipping customers control and monitor their pickup times more effectively."
UPS visibility tools give Call2Recycle the location and status of every shipment, in real time. What's more, transit time has dramatically improved, speeding cash flow and minimizing customer program interruptions.
"UPS Freight's shorter transit times coast to coast allowed Call2Recycle to reduce fulfillment time to the West Coast from 10 days down to just four," says Gabor.
Walking the sustainability talk
Call2Recycle also calls UPS a "sustainability partner." Since 2000, UPS has recycled more than 20 million batteries – 200,000 pounds – through the nonprofit.
The partnership allows Call2Recycle to expand its green footprint into new areas, including underserved rural areas. "UPS already has an extensive infrastructure and network," Gabor says. "That lets us serve the recycling customer better and faster."