Battery Usage and Disposal Tips

By: Flora Richards-Gustafson


Batteries are essential in today's world of all things high-tech and portable. So what is the best way to use and dispose of batteries?

Battery Usage
Before inserting a battery into any electronic device, use a cloth or pencil eraser to clean the ends of the battery and the compartment.

Next, make sure the batteries are placed properly into the compartment. The (+) and (-) terminals must be aligned properly. To extend battery life, always turn off electronic devices when they are not in use.

For rechargeable devices, such as laptops, cell phones, and digital cameras, cycle the battery to ensure top performance. To do this, simply run the battery until it is completely dead, fully recharge it, and repeat. Do not keep a rechargeable electronic device plugged in past the time needed to recharge. Doing so can shorten the battery's lifespan.

Battery Storage
Store batteries in a cool, dry location. Batteries should not be kept in warm places, as extreme temperatures reduce their performance. Many battery-operated items, such as laptops, need to have good airflow to keep them cool. Keeping a battery cool while it is in use lengthens its lifespan.

If you only need to use a particular battery-powered device once in a while, like when you go camping, take the batteries out of the device when it is not in use.

Battery Types
Household batteries can be broken down into three categories in terms of environmental friendliness: the good, the bad, and the rechargeable (which are also good).

The Good. Batteries made of oxyride or alkaline are a good option for those who do not want to spend the money on rechargeable batteries and a battery charger. Oxyride batteries generally last longer than alkaline batteries, but are also a bit more expensive. “High-drain” alkalines are available at most grocery stores for devices that use a lot of battery power, like digital cameras.

The Bad. NiCAD, rechargeable alkaline, and lithium. NiCAD batteries are considered obsolete and have now been replaced by non-toxic NiMH batteries, which last longer. rechargeable alkaline batteries cannot be recharged as many times as regular rechargeable batteries, and they do not work well in high-drain devices. Lithium batteries are marketed as the batteries of the gods because they last a long time, but they cannot be recharged, and they contain toxic materials.

The Rechargeable. Nickle-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries have replaced NiCADs because they lost longer. rechargeable batteries are a good option for devices that are used often, like remote controls. However, rechargeables can die after a few months of extended use or non-use. Therefore, rechargeables should never be used for emergency items like flashlights or smoke alarms.

Battery Disposal
Most batteries should be disposed of at recycling centers. These batteries include AAs, AAAs, cell phone batteries, laptop batteries, etc. Recycling centers have the means of disposing these batteries in an manner that will not leak the toxic chemicals into the environment. Other batteries to take a waste or recycle center include button batteries, lithium or lithium ion batteries, Ni-Cd, Ni-Li/Ni-hydride, sealed lead acid batteries, and silver oxide batteries. Oxyride or alkaline batteries can be disposed of with one's household trash.

Choose reusable and recyclable batteries, both for your pocketbook and for the health of the planet.

~Flora Richards-Gustafson, 2009

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