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The Truth about Batteries

How much money do you spend on buying new batteries? As a single item you might think that the cost is reasonable, or even negligible, but over a year it adds up. If you had an option to use that money for something else, while still enjoying the modern luxury of battery technology, would you take it? There is hardly a device that doesn’t use some kind of battery, be it single use or rechargeable, and even wired devices use batteries as a backup. The average American owns approximately two button batteries, ten disposable alkaline batteries, and throws away about eight household batteries per year[1]. While this number might seem relatively low, when you account for the 322,000,000 and growing population according to the U.S. Census[2], you arrive at having over a thousand metric tons of wet cell lead acid batteries in a year in just the United States that could have been (and were legally required to be) recycled, or better yet… reconditioned.

Environmental Implications

As you might suspect, batteries are not just any waste, they are a hazardous waste filled with chemicals and heavy metals – mercury, nickel, cadmium, cobalt, lead – that are toxic to all life. Because they are normally sealed you don’t come into direct contact with these compounds, but once they are on the land field in the open, exposed to the elements, they degrade and seep all of that toxic waste into the environment – polluting air, land and water.

But it gets worse, some heavy metals, like cadmium, are taken in by plant roots and accumulate in grass, vegetables and fruits. Along with impure water, these plants are then consumed by animals, which are in turn consumed by humans. Over a period of time of such exposure can cause severe problems:

  • Batteries contain amounts of lead, cadmium, mercury, and potassium which are toxic to the human body and have been known to cause: nausea, excessive salivation, abdominal pain, liver and kidney damage, skin irritation, headaches, chemical burns, asthma, nervousness, and more.
  • Contribution to landfills generates more methane gas, more methane gas leads to a greater greenhouse effect and influences negative climate change.
  • The production of batteries uses up natural resources, energy, and generates pollution.

While these things are undoubtedly important, learning how to recondition your batteries is not just about the collective population health and the environment. The math doesn’t lie. With the twenty batteries a year per person statistic mentioned above, a family of four would spend on average $239.20[3] on batteries! Sure, you could just make the switch to rechargeable batteries and sacrifice spending the 275% higher cost per battery and ~$50 for the charger[4]!

There are measure you can take to alleviate these problems by trying to use rechargeable batteries, or disposing them in a responsible manner, but that still leaves you short of the another option – reconditioning used batteries.