Wait a Minute … Could Disposable Batteries Be Better?!

Ginny Figlar Colón by Ginny Figlar Colón | January 19th, 2009 | 1 Comment
topic: Green Living

I just about spit out my latté when I heard an eco-minded friend ponder the notion that disposable batteries could be easier on the environment than rechargeables.

With an almost-1-year-old in the house, we are swimming in rechargeable batteries these days. We’ve got eight in the baby monitors, four in the digital camera, two in the video camera, two in an animal-sounds toy and two in a counting doll. The charger is in, what seems like, constant rotation. To hear that I might have powered all this in an ecologically friendlier way with alkaline batteries was disturbing, to say the least.

Rechargeable batteries and fast charger from Gaiam

I didn’t think it was true, but sometimes a lifecycle assessment can reveal surprising results. Fortunately, after hours of scouring the Internet, I am happy to report that we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief … for the most part. It’s possible that a single rechargeable battery could be more damaging to the environment than a single disposable alkaline battery if you only compare the impacts of mining and manufacturing. However, because rechargeable NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) batteries are used 500 to 1,000 times over their lifespan, they come out the clear eco-winners.

That means a big part of a rechargeable battery’s environmental impact is essentially up to us. So here are three easy ways to make your green batteries even greener:

  1. Label your batteries. Keep them together in sets by dating them with a marker when you buy them. Mixing them up can shorten their lifespan.
  2. Recharge often. This might go against everything you’ve heard about rechargeables. With the older NiCad batteries, which contain the toxic metal cadmium, you had to wait until the batteries had completely discharged before recharging them. But the newer — and eco-friendlier — NiMH batteries work the opposite way. You can actually extend their life by recharging them before they go dead.
  3. Keep ’em out of the landfill. The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation website will tell you where the nearest rechargeable battery drop-off locations are.


  1. Thanks for promoting the recycling of rechargeable batteries. Through the RBRC program, Call2Recycle, all small dry-cell rechargeable batteries can be recycled. There is absolutely no cost to participate as the rechargeable battery industry funds this program. It’s voluntary through convenient retail and community locations. RBRC pays for the collection boxes, shipment, and the recycling process.

    Through the recycling process, all the reusable metals are extracted through a high temperature process. Metals such as nickel, iron, cobalt, lead, and cadmium. Nothing goes to the landfill at the end of the recycling process. And with the access of reusable materials, there’s less need to mine natural resources.

    If you want to be green by using rechargeable batteries you can also feel good knowing that these kind of batteries have a free and easy recycling program already in place across the U.S. and Canada.

    Theres | January 19th, 2009 | Comment Permalink

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