Monday, September 14, 2009

It keeps going and going and going…or does it?

Have you noticed that modern life is full of batteries? Our remotes have batteries, our handheld video games have batteries, our cell phones have batteries, our laptops have batteries, our toddlers’ toys have batteries, etc., etc. But, unlike certain type of batteries that boast they “keep going and going and going,” the fact is, they don’t. Eventually they die and we toss them in the trash, right? Well, that’s what I’ve always done. Little did I know, it’s not a wise thing to do, and is even illegal in some states.

Batteries contain cadmium, copper and, in the case of older batteries, mercury, which means they are considered hazardous waste! While over two billion batteries end up in landfills, they’re not supposed to be there. It is estimated that 88% of the total mercury and up to 50% of the cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream comes from batteries. This is a disturbing statistic.

The problems/hazards that may result from improper battery disposal include exposing the environment/water to lead and acid, polluting the waterways (because, when burned, the metals vaporize into the air), and heavy metal leaching from solid waste landfills. Remember, batteries contain corrosive acids that can cause burns and injuries to your eyes and skins.

So, what’s the solution? Here are some ideas to cut down on waste from household and alkaline batteries. Keep reading for dry cell battery advice.

1. First of all, become a better steward of your household batteries. Store batteries in a cool, but not cold, place with low humidity; heat can make batteries lose their charge faster. Make sure you clean the ends of your batteries before storing them. A clean pencil eraser works well for this. Keep the batteries in a non-metal container without other items because if they rub against other metal objects, they can short circuit and/or leak. If you won’t be using a battery-operated item for awhile, remove the batteries and store them.

2. Before you buy new batteries, check to see if you already have the type you’re looking for.

3. Consider buying items that don’t require batteries; i.e. hand operated can openers, flashlights that work by winding them, etc.

4. Purchase rechargeable batteries and a charger.

When it’s time to dispose of dead batteries, you have a couple of options:

1. Toss used batteries in a plastic container, away from moisture. When full, take the container to your local hazardous waste facility for recycling. Contact your local municipality for details.

2. Order a prepaid mailing package to send your batteries to companies for recycling. For example, you can use the iRecycle Kit which includes everything you need to recycle all of your batteries and hand-held electronics. Find out more at

When it comes to dry cell batteries, as are used in cell phones, laptops, etc., many local stores will recycle them for you. Visit to find a store near you.

Other options include donating your old cell phones to charity. This benefits both the charity and you, as in most cases this is tax deductible. It’s also a good idea to contact the manufacturer of your major electronic equipment to find out if they offer a “take back” program.

A company called 2Recycle® collects and recycles rechargeable batteries from cordless electronic products, as well as cell phones, with over 30,000 collection sites in the U.S. and Canada. They offer free programs to retailers, businesses, communities and public agencies. Visit their website for more information.

Small dry cell rechargeable batteries include:

Nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd)
Nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH)
Lithium ion (Li-ion)
Nickel zinc (Ni-Zn)
Small sealed lead (Pb)

Remember, it all comes down to using a little common sense, even if it’s a bit inconvenient. If we all start making small changes, we can make a huge difference in this world we’re leaving behind to our kids and grandkids. Isn’t a safer environment worth it?

Keeping it green,


1 comment:

  1. I saw that Ikea also takes batteries among a ton of other stuff. At the exit they have tons of bins.


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