Asee peer logo

Environmental Education Projects Built Around Feral Battery Research

Download Paper |


2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Innovative Curricula and Outreach

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.525.1 - 8.525.15



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Sara Hise

author page

Jim Clark

author page

Bryant Kiedrowski

author page

Aaron Jennings

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session ____

Environmental Education Projects Built Around Feral Battery Research

Aaron A. Jennings, Jim Clark, Sara Hise, Bryant Kiedrowski Department of Civil Engineering Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH 44106-7201


Feral batteries are consumer batteries that have “run wild” to litter urban pavements. This problem was first identified during a summer 2001 NSF-REU project to measure heavy metals in brownfield soils. The project required field sampling and shopping to replenish consumables. While shopping, batteries were often observed in parking lots. This led to pavement surveys where littered batteries were collected and characterized. The results were startling. Over 2,000 feral batteries were collected. Average surveys yielded 19 batteries, but there was considerable site variability. Survey results are presented to illustrate the potential environmental significance of consumer battery litter.

The issue of urban battery litter raises several questions that can be answered by traditional laboratory research. Results of work to measure battery deterioration rates and pollutant release properties are also presented. However, battery litter also raises questions that cannot be answered in the laboratory. Almost nothing is known about the distribution of “hot spot” sites where battery litter rates are high. Developing this information has become the focus of environmental educational projects. Details are presented on a program that has been developed to conduct feral battery surveys as components of K-12 grade educational projects on the environmental implications of batteries, and to partner K-12 student teams with university research. This program offers an opportunity for hands-on education about issues such as heavy metal toxicity, environmental economics, non-point source pollution and recycling. Because this requires off-school activity at busy commercial locations where students collect and characterize what could be thought of as “hazardous” samples, implementation has not been without challenges, but the potential benefits seem to be well worth the efforts required.


“Feral” batteries are consumer batteries (D, C, AA, AAA, 9V, etc. cells) that have “run wild” and can now be found lying on urban parking lot and street pavements releasing heavy metal contamination to stormwater each time there is a significant runoff event. This is not a well- known problem, but recent field data gathered in Cleveland, Ohio indicate that for some urban locations, battery litter can be a surprisingly important source of heavy metal contamination. The primary goal of this paper is to discuss a cooperative program of environmental education and research that incorporates K-12 field surveys into both educational programs of study on battery-

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ? 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Hise, S., & Clark, J., & Kiedrowski, B., & Jennings, A. (2003, June), Environmental Education Projects Built Around Feral Battery Research Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11481

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2003 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015