How many do you toss away in one year? I’ve been saving these to recycle for two years. But fixing this situation wasn’t going to be easy.
The last time I brought my used batteries to a recycle location (Radio Shack) the clerk looked at me funny, looked at the other clerk, muttered “thanks” and threw them in the garbage. The store was crowded so I just left. I’d make sure this didn’t happen the next time.
Billions of batteries are thrown away forever. What an enormous waste. But what do you do if you personally want to do better? The solution is not as obvious as you’d think. Buying rechargeable batteries (NiMH or nickel–metal hydride batteries) are a step in the right direction. But because they lose their charge rapidly you can’t pre-charge a bunch for when you might need them in a few weeks or months. They are best used right out of the charger when they are strongest. When your battery dies, NiMH rechargeable batteries are ok if you have the time to wait while they charge and then use them soon. An NiMH battery is strongest right after charging and then quickly loses a bulk of it’s charge. This works fine for my 4 external camera flashes because I’d FULLY use them each day and charge them up again for the next day. But for all the general uses around the house when you need to immediately replace a battery and go on with your life, the NiMH you charged two weeks ago and stored for this moment has lost a significant amount of charge. The trade off is that while you’ve done a good thing for the Earth using rechargables, you have to use a freshly charged battery almost immediately or you end up installing a half charged (or worse) battery that’s lost it’s juice waiting to be used.
Finally, there is a good solution! Eneloop batteries from Sanyo. What is different is Eneloops lose their charge VERY slowly over time so you can charge a bunch and leave them in the drawer for when they’re needed. When you finally need one it will have kept most of it’s charge. Charging them in ADVANCE is no problem. No more having your TV remote battery die and then having to wait an hour or so for a fresh NiCad to charge. And you’re not replacing your dead TV-remote battery with a half charged NiMH that you FULLY charged weeks ago.
I can charge up the Eneloops and leave them in a drawer for when I need them. When the time comes they will have kept most of their charge. A few things around the house will still get regular batteries, such as smoke detectors. But, buying regular batteries at the store is kept to a minimum.
Finding a recycling location for regular store bought batteries isn’t so easy. I was told Staples offered that service but found they only recycle toner cartridges. Almost no one takes regular household batteries around here. Industrial batteries? Yes. Regular old AA’s and AA’s, no.
Even if they did take them, used batteries aren’t recycled in the sense that they are “re-used”. They still go to a land fill. But at least they might be separated from the regular household waste of paper and food that normally goes into every landfill. Maybe they’re disposed of differently. I’d REALLY like to know. Imagine the zillions of one-time-use batteries that go into the earth every day around the world. Billions of them. A single use and then into the ground forever.
This past Saturday our town held a hazardous waste collection, including accepting batteries. It was very well run and I watched my boxes of used batteries properly collected. No one murmured and gave their co-worker a funny look and threw them in the regular trash.
Where they go from here I do not know. I’ll try to find out. But we’ll be using Eneloop rechargables for as long as they’ll last. Again, they work for me because I can grab a fresh one and use it immediately and it still retains most of it’s charge. When I need a battery I don’t have to stop and stick one in the charger and wait an hour or more. My store bought batteries to recycle next year will total around ten, instead of a big box full.