Q&A with Micah Thompson (Senior Manager, Environmental Affairs, Advance Auto Parts)
What inspired your company to join the coalition?
I’ve been with Advance for over 13 years. Since day one, we’ve looked for opportunities to work with state and federal regulation policy agencies to develop sensible regulations that work for Advance’s operations with the ultimate purpose of protecting our communities and the environment. When the invitation to join the RBC came, it was an easy decision to join as we can already see the challenges of managing lithium-ion batteries. Our hope is to ensure that Advance has input on any potential regulations that affect the collecting, handling, storage, transportation and recycling of spent lithium-ion batteries.
Describe your company’s current efforts toward responsible life-cycle management of batteries (regardless of technology).
Advance has “always” (as long as I can remember) collected spent lead acid batteries from our customers to be recycled and ultimately reused as components for new lead-acid batteries. The process is simply part of the fabric of our company, long before sustainability was a concept and efforts toward “responsible lifecycle management” became impactful business decisions. We are proud that our common-sense approach toward stewardship with batteries was years ahead of other companies and industries. Because a spent lead acid battery has value, the recycling efforts lower our costs of new batteries, which keeps costs low for our customers.
For decades, Advance has participated in a number of similar “core” programs, in which a customer is financially incentivized to return their old part (i.e. “core”). The core is then sent back to the manufacturer to be rebuilt and ultimately back on the shelf to be sold as a remanufactured part. These parts are guaranteed to meet high-quality standards while keeping costs low. The environmental benefits (reduction in natural resources, reduction in energy and reduction in carbon) are only recently being recognized and celebrated.
How do you hope to contribute to RBC’s mission?
Advance hopes to have sensible regulations for lithium-ion batteries that work for our stores and distribution centers. We also hope to drive awareness to our customers to ensure traditional lead acid batteries are kept out of landfills and the environment. We hope these efforts will result in an increase in spent batteries coming to our stores to be recycled.
Twenty years from now, what would be your ideal scenario for battery manufacturing and recycling?
In the next 20 years, or hopefully even sooner, it would be ideal to have the same successful recycling rates with lithium-ion batteries as we do with lead acid batteries today. Such a success would include the use of the spent battery components in the manufacturing process for new lithium-ion batteries.