5 minutes with… Carl E. Smith, Call2Recycle, Inc, USA

5 minutes with… Carl E. Smith, Call2Recycle, Inc, USA

August 22, 2019
Marcia González

Since 1994, Call2Recycle, Inc has grown from an idea by a group of five battery manufacturers to a leading not-for-profit, product stewardship organization that operates according to the principles of efficiency, transparency and commitment. E-Waste World Conference & Expo speaker Carl E. Smith is the CEO and president of what is North America’s first and largest consumer battery stewardship program

How did you end up in the industry? I joined the industry in 2008 after heading a non-profit environmental organization for three years. I was recruited to this position due to my mix of public policy, environmental, corporate and technology experience. My task was to take a fledgling non-profit devoted to battery collection and recycling and transform it into a global thought-leader on how to safely handle batteries in a range of electronic products, including e-waste.

Please tell me about your job role and responsibilities? I’m the CEO and president of Call2Recycle, Inc, which is devoted to collecting and recycling consumer batteries across North America. I provide the strategy, the market positioning and direction for the organization.

What exciting projects/innovations are you working on at the moment? We have been investing a lot into materials we can use in containers to thwart any battery safety incidents. First, we devised a patent-pending liner for our boxes to mitigate fires. Now we are coming up with other drums and containers where there wouldn’t be concerns about storing, shipping or handling lithium-ion batteries.

Is the ‘e-waste crisis’ exaggerated? Why do you think electronic waste does not receive the same kind of media scrutiny as, say, plastic pollution? It has not at all been exaggerated. Plastics is more relatable because it is more ubiquitous but is, in many ways, much easier to address with alternative materials and waste management policies. E-Waste is vastly more complex with fewer alternatives.

What would you say is the single biggest challenge facing the e-waste sector today? By far the biggest challenges is finding secondary markets that are ample and cost-effective. Too little that goes into e-waste products have robust markets to ensure that material is handled properly.

Plastics is more relatable because it is more ubiquitous but is, in many ways, much easier to address with alternative materials and waste management policies. E-Waste is vastly more complex with fewer alternatives

Is e-waste legislation tough enough – or perhaps not quick enough to adapt rules to faster-changing electronics development cycles? E-waste legislation – at least in North America – is not nearly tough enough. Only 25 out of 50 states have legislation in the USA and, even in those states that do, it often only covers legacy products such as PCs and televisions. None do a great job in managing the downstream disposition of material.

Which countries are success stories for you when it comes to dealing with e-waste and why? Since my work has been limited to North America, I can’t say that I’ve seen a true success story. Great strides? Yes, but so far away from claiming success. In North America, so much is still landfilled. Too much is still sent to non-OECD countries.

Where do you predict the future of e-waste is heading? There is no question that more regulatory measures are on the horizon, particularly outside of Europe. And there will undoubtedly be greater scrutiny and enforcement of downstreams used to handle e-waste to prevent dumping, landfilling and mishandling of material.

A preliminary agenda for E-Waste World Conference & Expo has now been published online. You yourself are delivering a presentation at this first E-Waste World Conference & Expo in November. What do you hope delegates will take away from what you tell them? The most important takeaway from a conference like this is capturing a broader view of the issues, beyond simply what each individual organization is handling. Different perspectives and ideas for solving issues are essential to the success of this.

Carl E. Smith will be delivering a presentation entitled ‘The challenges of recycling lithium-ion batteries in North America‘ at E-Waste World Conference & Expo (synopsis below). The conference will take place from Thursday 14 November to Friday 15 November at the Kap Europa, Frankfurt Messe, Germany. To register for this highly focused, solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email peter@trans-globalevents.com


Despite overwhelming alignment that lithium-ion batteries should be recycled, it remains extremely difficult to recycle them in North America. Safety constraints, nascent infrastructure and a dearth of a regulatory framework all conspire to restrain battery recycling. While there is good news on the horizon, there continues to be barriers to optimizing recycling and fulfilling the promise of a circular economy. Carl E. Smith heads Call2Recycle, Inc, North America’s premier consumer battery recycling organization that has recycled more than 160 million pounds of batteries since its inception. Carl will document these challenges and offer insights into what might be done to improve battery recycling in North America.

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