For 22 years, Virden Lions Club has been collecting used batteries, turning them into cash. It was an idea that Garnet Goodridge stumbled upon, and even back when batteries weren’t worth much, the project just seemed right to Goodridge.
In 1993-94, when he was the Lions Club 5M-13 District Governor, Goodridge visited all 69 Clubs. During a visit to Bowsman, Birch River, Swan River and The Pas area, he discovered the clubs were shipping dead batteries into Winnipeg.
“When I got back to Virden I presented the idea to the Virden Club and the members decided to take it on.” They followed the pattern set by the other clubs.
Considered dangerous goods, there were some hurdles to cross to allow for battery storage and handling.
“The biggest problem was getting permission from the environmental people, which took some time,” says Goodridge.
The site where the batteries would be stored had to be inspected.
“There were a lot of phone calls and a lot of letters. They asked if we were qualified to handle hazardous goods.” This included the need for protective clothing, safe hauling and the training to do the work.
An inspector paid a visit to the collection site and then there was a three-month wait before approval was granted for the Lions Club to begin their battery drive. In 1994 they received a permit and it has become a yearly effort ever since.
Initially, a load per year was shipped to Winnipeg.
“We were surrounded by dead batteries. At that time they did not pay well, but we thought we could make some money. Pretty well all the members took part.”
Battery collection has been hard work over the years; they were often found nearly buried in long grass in back yards. “You would take a spade (shovel) and an axe. Pretty well all farm yards had a stack of batteries, three high, and we had to cut them out.”
Each load ships out about 2,200 batteries plus two pallets of radiators which are also collected and sold to the salvage company.
“We were shipping a load per year, until about eight years ago; a member joined the club - John Carefoot – and made collecting dead batteries his priority.”
Goodridge explains that Carefoot “went a little further afield” sourcing batteries. “He has done a tremendous job. We have to give him credit.”
Under Carefoot’s initiative two shipments per year have been loaded onto Gardewine semis with the use of Four Season Sales’ metal bander and supplies (to strap batteries between pallets for safe transport) free of charge.
Valleyview Co-op has donated the use of their pallet jack and for several years Penner Lumber provided a man and loader to load the trailer.
Since then, for 18 years Bruce Bailey (Fontana Trucking) has been providing a loader and operator to load the pallets onto the semi.
To date, over 48,000 batteries have been shipped to Winnipeg to be turned into cash.
“We thought we were doing a good thing for environment as well as raising money. All proceeds go to the surrounding community,” Goodridge points out.
After careful negotiation with various scrap places in Winnipeg, Goodridge has built a working relationship to get the best price for the club.
The value of used batteries has increased dramatically since this project started over 20 years ago.
Now there are many Lions Clubs in Manitoba who follow suit, doing people a favour by recycling their waste batteries, doing the environment a favour and all money made goes into the local economy.
Donations go to those who have experienced disaster or hardship; or to groups and organizations who need a boost for worthwhile projects.
Thankful for the donation of equipment and manpower, the club has also purchased their own pallet jack and one metal bander to strap the batteries on pallets for safe transport.
Goodridge notes, “Despite the rising core price of batteries we still have many donors, including businesses in town and the farming community, as well as the public. The good price was an incentive to the Lions to continue their work.”
A shipment was just sent to the city at the end of November.