The Environmental Benefits of Using Rechargeable Batteries

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The Environmental Benefits of Using Rechargeable Batteries

Trying to imagine modern society without the use of batteries would be nearly impossible. Not only are they responsible for running many small household appliances and children's toys, but they power cars, computers, and cell phones. In fact, as wireless technology started to take off, human society started depending even more on batteries. However, all of this battery technology comes at a high cost. Batteries are made from heavy metals, some of them dangerous to humans and the environment.

Many batteries are not properly disposed of, and even when they are thrown away into a landfill they pose problems once they start to leak. Almost every corner store, shop, and online website like eBay, sells rechargeable batteries, which seriously cuts down on the amount of batteries thrown away every year. By deciding to purchase rechargeable batteries instead of primary use batteries, families can help save the environment and save a little extra cash in the process.

Understanding Batteries

Batteries generate power by combining a heavy metal such as mercury, lead, cadmium or nickel with a chemical electrolyte. In single use batteries, once the electrolyte is drained of electrons, the battery is dead. Rechargeable batteries can replenish the electron supply, allowing them to be used over and over again. However, the heavy metal levels inside battery always remain the same. Metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium are bad news for the environment, and can potentially cause serious health concerns.

Battery Disposal and the Environment

It is estimated that every household throws away about eight batteries per year. While this does not seem like a terribly high number, imagine eight batteries multiplied by the millions of households inside the UK. Then add on the billions of households around the world, and the end result is truly staggering. In the best case scenario, all of this battery garbage ends up in a landfill, where the heavy metals inside slowly leak out, contaminating the surrounding soil. In the worst case scenario, the garbage is incinerated, releasing these dangerous metals into the air where they can fall to earth with the rain and spread over the soil.

Ill Effects

Of all the metals used in batteries, mercury is probably the most dangerous. While most of the other metals are harmful only if they are swallowed or inhaled, mercury can also be absorbed through the skin. Furthermore, while many people are aware of the dangerous effects of lead and mercury, they do not realise that cadmium is toxic. Cadmium is easily absorbed into the soil and taken by plants. Any humans or animals that eat these plants ingest cadmium into their bodies. Symptoms of being poisoned by these toxic metals range from feeling nausea to skin rashes and headaches. Long term effects include decreased intelligence levels in children, breathing problems, and even certain types of cancer.

Battery Improvements

Once the dangerous environmental effects of batteries became understood, many governments and private companies took steps to limit their ill effects. Mercury was once heavily used in batteries, but now it has been phased out of certain batteries altogether. Many communities and businesses started promoting battery recycling. For example, when a car owner goes out to buy a new car battery, he or she receives a discount if they take their old battery in to be recycled. Recycling keeps the battery out of the landfill, significantly reducing the number of batteries thrown away every year.

Recycling and Rare Earth Minerals

One of the reasons battery recycling has become so important recently lies with a less holistic reason than saving the environment. Many batteries, such as the Lithium Ion type found in computers and electric cars, contains rare earth minerals. The name rare earth metals is somewhat of a misnomer since these metals aren't exactly rare. They occur in large areas in certain parts of the world, such as China, but other countries are completely bereft of these minerals. Therefore, these batteries command high prices. By choosing to recycle them, the prices are kept down on the market.

NIMH Batteries

If a customer is going to buy a primary use battery instead of a rechargeable one, then nickel metal hydride (NIMH) batteries are the way to go. These batteries do not contain the toxic levels of cadmium found in nickel cadmium (NICD) batteries. Therefore, if they are thrown away in a landfill they have less of an impact on the surrounding environment.

Rechargeable Batteries

From an environmental standpoint, rechargeable batteries, also called secondary use batteries, are far better than primary use batteries. Instead of only being able to be used just one time, rechargeable batteries are known to work over and over again. When the batteries performance finally becomes compromised, it can be recycled to have a minimal impact on the environment. By simply choosing to purchase rechargeable batteries, homeowners can help keep toxic metals out of the ground and air.

How to Use Rechargeable Batteries

Rechargeable batteries come in all sizes, from tiny AA to 9V. A battery charger charges the batteries and keeps them working. While customers can purchase battery chargers based on battery size, it is best to buy one that works with several different sizes. These versatile battery chargers replenish the drained electrons in the batteries, giving them power once more.

Rechargeable Battery Myths

There are several urban legends that state that rechargeable batteries are not safe to use after being recharged several times. This is simply untrue, and usually stated by people who do not understand how batteries work. While rechargeable batteries do eventually wear out, this is only after 1000 cycles for NIMH, and 1500 cycles for NICD batteries. In other words, even a NIMH battery that is recharged every week can still last for 19 years.

Cost Considerations

Overall, there very little difference in cost between purchasing a primary use battery and a rechargeable one. The only area where the rechargeable batteries become more expensive is when a battery charger must be purchased. However, this is a one-time cost and pays off in the long run.

Calculating Battery Savings

For more clarity, let's say an average household purchases eight primary use batteries a year for five years, resulting in 35 batteries. Another household chooses to purchase eight rechargeable batteries and a battery recharger. While the initial purchase price of the second household is higher, at the end of five years, the household has not purchased any additional batteries. The savings can clearly be seen between only purchasing eight batteries, and buying 35 of them.

Buying Rechargeable Batteries on eBay

eBay sells plenty of rechargeable batteries in all different sizes. Since these batteries last for such a long time, there is no need to purchase them in large amounts. In fact, most rechargeable batteries only have a storage life of two years, which means that if you purchase the battery, then you need to use it. Buy batteries in the different sizes that you need, usually no more than four work just fine.

Searching for Rechargeable Batteries on eBay

Start of on eBay's home page and begin your search for rechargeable batteries by using the search engine. If you simply want to see which types of batteries are available, type in 'rechargeable batteries'. If you need a certain size, type in 'AA rechargeable battery' or whatever the appropriate size, to get more accurate results. You can also search by brand, such as 'Duracell rechargeable battery'. If you need a battery charger, then eBay also sells them as well. Search for 'battery charger' to find all current auctions.

Considerations When Buying Rechargeable Batteries on eBay

There are several things customers need to consider when buying rechargeable batteries on eBay. First, try to buy new rechargeable batteries. While some sellers may offer used batteries, the truth is you do not know the history of these batteries. A working battery that is constantly recharged will last for many years, but the storage life of a rechargeable battery is typically only two years. You do not know if this used battery was steadily used, or if it was sitting the garage for four years. Do yourself a favour and ensure that you are purchasing long-lasting rechargeable batteries by getting new ones.

Conclusion

Rechargeable batteries are an easy way to help keep the environment free of toxic metals. All batteries contain heavy metals, and some of them such as mercury, lead, or cadmium, are extremely toxic. Once these types of batteries are thrown away, they are either burned, or deposited of in a landfill. In a landfill, the batteries slowly leak, while burned batteries simply release their toxic metals into the air, causing serious potential health effects.

Many areas now offer battery recycling programmes in an effort to keep more batteries out of the garbage. However, rechargeable batteries truly reduce the number of disposable battery waste by allowing homeowners to use them over and over again. These rechargeable batteries are commonly sold on eBay and can also be found in stores, along with battery chargers. Every time that a battery is recharged, it prevents another battery from being tossed out in the garbage.

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