Oversight and Enforcement of the Rechargeable Battery Law (Follow-Up)

Issued Date
March 21, 2024
Environmental Conservation, Department of


To determine the extent of implementation of the two recommendations included in our initial audit report, Oversight and Enforcement of the Rechargeable Battery Law (Report 2021-S-19).

About the Program

Every year in the United States, millions of single-use and rechargeable batteries are bought, used, and recycled or disposed of in the trash. The increased demand for batteries can be traced largely to the rapid increase in the use of small portable electronics, power tools, and other everyday items, as well as the increase in “smart” products. Batteries can contain metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, nickel, silver, and lithium, all of which can pose a threat to the environment and human health and safety when improperly managed at the end of their service life. These metals can pollute lakes and streams when they leak chemicals into the environment from landfills, and in the case of lithium-ion batteries can ignite and start fires at various points in the waste stream.

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), through its Bureau of Waste Reduction and Recycling’s Product Stewardship and Extended Producer Responsibility Waste Reduction Unit, is responsible for implementation of laws regarding product stewardship and extended producer responsibilities in the State. Article 27, Title 18 of the Environmental Conservation Law, referred to as the Rechargeable Battery Law (Law), took effect on December 10, 2010. The Law was enacted to reduce rechargeable batteries’ impact on the environment; however, it only covers the collection and recycling of rechargeable batteries weighing less than 25 pounds, including any rechargeable nickel-cadmium, sealed lead, lithium-ion, or nickel metal hydride battery and any other dry cell battery capable of being recharged and battery packs containing any of the aforementioned batteries (hereafter collectively referred to as rechargeable batteries). The covered rechargeable batteries must also be removable from the device prior to recycling. Call2Recycle (C2R) – an existing rechargeable battery program funded by members of the rechargeable battery and portable electronic product industry – had, prior to the Law’s implementation, established itself as a mechanism for recycling rechargeable batteries for retailers and manufacturers, and still carries out much of the recycling of rechargeable batteries in the State.

Retailers of rechargeable batteries are required to accept used rechargeable batteries from consumers. They must also post conspicuously placed signage informing consumers that they can return their used rechargeable batteries to the retail location for recycling and that they are prohibited from knowingly disposing of such batteries as solid waste. The retailer shall maintain collection boxes (bins) or other suitable receptacles for consumers to deposit used rechargeable batteries.

The objective of our initial audit, issued on June 29, 2022, was to determine whether DEC adequately monitored and enforced compliance with the Law to promote the proper disposal of lithium-ion and other types of rechargeable batteries. The audit found DEC was not effectively monitoring manufacturer or retailer compliance with the Law. C2R had 911 retailers enrolled in its program, but of the 30 we tested, 33% did not have the required signage. Further testing found at least 1,248 potentially covered retailers that were not enrolled with C2R; we tested 72 of those and found 69% did not have collection bins for consumers to return used rechargeable batteries. In addition, DEC had issued no fines or penalties to any manufacturer or retailer since the Law was passed, nor had DEC submitted a biennial report to the Executive or Legislature, as required.

Key Findings

DEC officials have made significant progress in addressing the problems we identified in the initial audit report. Of the initial report’s two audit recommendations, one was implemented and one was partially implemented.

Heather Pratt

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Manager
: Heather Pratt
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236