Batteries, part 1
Energy = potential. Thanks to an Italian named Volta, we have batteries small things that have lots of energy and possibilities in store for us. Besides powering our cell phones, cameras, flashlights, etc, there are currently more laptops being sold than desktop computers. Our cars and trucks have been using them all along but now our future will rely even more heavily on them. Nissan has just broken ground for a lithium ion battery plant in Tennessee, to supply its electric car, the Leaf. (Wow, great name.) Power from the sun and wind is stored in them, for when the sun isn’t shining and the wind not blowing.
From an environmental perspective, they produce clean power, if you don’t take into account their production and their afterlife in the dump. Billions of batteries are produced annually. Each year, Americans buy around 3 billion of the little dry cell ones and 100 million lead acid car batteries. Most of the former are discarded, most of the latter are recycled.
Batteries left to rot in landfills are polluting, though actually the regular old “heavy duty” (zinc oxide) and the popular alkaline ones (manganese dioxide, potassium hydroxide, zinc) are more innocent than others, except for the materials in their billions which could be reused if recycled.
Using rechargeable batteries when possible is the way to go, and NiMh (Nickel Metal hydride) appear to be the best, both environmentally and for actual use, as they last longer. These are not considered hazardous waste. Other rechargeables, such as Ni-cds (Nickel cadmium) and lithiums, used for our electronics, and also the little button batteries ARE hazardous waste and hence should be either recycled or brought to hazardous waste collection sites.
The European Union’s Battery Directive places more responsibility on citizens and manufacturers for recycling. In the U.S.,California’s law prohibits disposal of batteries, though I doubt there have been any arrests.
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Barbara Hirsch, recording engineer, eco-person
“Unless someone like you cares a whole lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
– The Lorax, Children’s book by Dr. Seuss