Batteries contain toxic metals that can leach into landfills and into the environment. In fact, according to the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, 70% of the heavy metals in landfills is due to household batteries. Wow!
In our house we use rechargeable batteries as much as possible. Every time a single-use battery wears out in something, I ask myself (usually out loud, since I’m so desperate for adult conversation) whether it could be replaced with a rechargeable. The answer (also spoken out loud, of course) has, so far, always been yes. I find that it’s actually easier and cheaper to use rechargeables because we buy so many fewer batteries, and (bonus!) there’s less packaging to throw away.
When your rechargeables finally wear out, you can recycle them. If you’re in North America (and two of my four regular readers are), you can check the Call2Recycle site to find a drop-off site. I was surprised to find out that there are 48 drop-offs within five miles of my house (or, since I’m in Canada, 8 kilometres); several of them are in stores I shop at, and many of them also take old cell phones. 48! Who knew?
In some places there aren’t programs in place to recycle single-use batteries, but some stores, companies, and recyclers do take them. Currently a lot of these batteries are taken to hazardous waste landfills, but now that California has banned batteries from landfills and requires battery recycling, better options might become more widely available elsewhere. My husband’s company collects them, so once in a while I send him to work with a plastic baggy full of dead batteries (if that’s not nerdy, I don’t know what is).
One thing that hadn’t occurred to me until I read a handout produced by the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation was the number of batteries that people unknowingly throw away in phones, toys, and all sorts of gadgets. Now before we toss anything that might remotely have a battery in it, we open it up and check first.
I find that many things that are better for the environment actually save money and take little time and effort. Dealing with batteries is one of these things. We drop them off at places we go to anyway. We buy fewer batteries. Once in a while we have to charge the rechargeables or open something up before we throw it away. Not a lot of work to keep heavy metals out the waste stream.