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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep ’em out of the landfill. The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation website will tell you where the nearest rechargeable battery drop-off locations are.