ALBANY -- A law goes into effect Monday that makes it illegal to dispose of rechargeable batteries in the regular trash.
The New York State Rechargable Battery Law, which was signed by then-Gov. David Paterson in December 2010, prohibits the disposal of rechargeable batteries, such as laptop batteries or camera batteries, in non-recyclable containers.
The ban also extends to cell-phone batteries, which are typically replaced on average every 18 months to 24 months, and rechargeable alkaline batteries.
The rechargeable laptop batteries must be returned to recycling bins at retail stores, according to the law.
In June, every retailer was required to provide recycling receptacles to consumers in their stores if they sold rechargeable batteries. Small-food stores that sell rechargeable batteries are exempt.
Failure to provide the receptacles can lead to fines of up to $5,000 for retailers. Fines for individuals, who would have to be proven to knowingly have thrown out the batteries, face smaller fines of $50 for a first offense and $100 for a second offense, officials said.
"Those disposal bans are very difficult to enforce. You don't have garbage police, you don't have municipalities or private haulers rummaging through people's garbage bags and saying 'You're not allowed to throw this out,'" said Laura Haight, a senior environmental associate for the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Individual consumers are not being targeted with the law, Carl Smith, the CEO of Call2Recycle, a non-profit organization that pushed for the legislation.
"It's the major organizations that continue to throw things out like laptop batteries or stuff like that," Smith said. "Those things are much more likely to come to people's attention than the one-offs you throw in the garbage every couple of weeks."
The law covers most rechargeable dry cell, non-vehicular batteries weighing less than 25 pounds. It lists any rechargeable battery as ones using nickel-cadmium, sealed lead, lithium ion or nickel metal hydride -- which includes rechargeable alkaline batteries.
"I think it's going to make a significant impact in keeping toxic chemicals out of landfills and other places where it can do harm in our environment," said Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, D-Suffolk County, the chairman of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation.
Haight and Sweeney said that the law has so far been successful in terms of the placement of the receptacles and the amount of people using them.
Under the law, battery manufacturers are required to retrieve the collected batteries and submit an annual report to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
"It puts primary responsibility on the manufacturers and the retailers to deal with it on the back end when it is being disposed of," Sweeney said.