4 Tips to Green your Batteries at Home
Every year in the United States, Americans buy, use and throw out billions of batteries.
Because some types of batteries still contain toxic constituents, such as mercury and cadmium, they can pose a potential threat to human health and the environment if improperly disposed of.
✔ Know the health hazards of improper disposal – Batteries may produce the following potential problems or hazards:
- Pollute the lakes and streams as the metals vaporize into the air when burned.
- Contribute to heavy metals that potentially may leach from solid waste landfills.
- Expose the environment and water to lead and acid.
- Contain strong corrosive acids.
- May cause burns or danger to eyes and skin.In landfills, heavy metals have the potential to leach slowly into soil, groundwater or surface water.
- Dry cell batteries contribute about 88 percent of the total mercury and 50% of the cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream.
✔ Buy rechargeable batteries – The use of rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries can reduce the number of batteries entering the waste stream, but may increase the number of heavy metals entering the waste stream unless they are more effectively recycled.
✔ Properly dispose of your batteries – Many of the regular alkaline batteries are considered household waste (and not hazardous waste) and can be legally disposed of in the normal household trash. Most all other batteries are considered hazardous waste and should be dropped off at a local hazardous waste pickup. The greenest option is to treat all batteries as hazardous waste.
✔ Buy the most appropriate battery for the job – Different types of batteries work better for different functions. Here are some general buying tips:
- Oxyrides are the best disposable batteries (better than alkaline), but consider using rechargeable Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) instead.
- Standard alkalines don’t work well in high-drain devices (like digital cameras) – Ultra Alkalines perform better.
- There is not much difference in charge capacity for alkalines from brand to brand. Consumer Reports found that the spread between the best and worst alkalines was only 9-15%.
- Rechargeable alkalines get far fewer recharge cycles than a real rechargeable (NiMH), and their capacity drops every time you charge them.
- NiCads are obsolete rechargeables. They’ve been replaced by Nickel-Metal Hydrides (NiMH’s).
- A 9 V lithium batteries are ideal for smoke detectors because they typically last 7-10 years.