Everything There is to Know About Batteries

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No matter what type they may be, recycling your rechargeables is a must-do. They contain heavy metals which are not only hazardous to the environment, but valuable in reuse applications. (Stock Photo)

Plug them in, change them out, upgrade, downgrade – do whatever you need to do because by this point in the year, you should know everything there is to know about batteries (and if you don’t, keep reading).

While they may seem like a small piece of the recycling puzzle, batteries constitute a huge potential area of impact, especially as it relates to rechargeables. They contain heavy metals that could be dangerous if they end up in landfills (and our environment), and they have widespread recycling options.

Also, our tech is getting faster, smaller, lighter and batteries are being developed and consumed at the same rate to keep us powered up. Rechargeable technology is also adapting to rapidly changing demands, capitalizing on alternative sources of power from kinetic to solar and alternative chemistries involving viruses.

If the past few sentences seem brand new, or if you’re afraid you missed any of this year’s highlights, here are our five favorite battery stories, plus some 2011 predictions:

Single-Use vs. Rechargeable

February

Batteries, both the kind that you toss after one use (single-use batteries) and the kind you can reuse (rechargeables), are an everyday essential in countless applications. But where’s the best spot for each, and is there a battery that’s truly better?

The Ultimate Battery Guide

March

Most of us don’t know the technical lingo for the batteries we have, making it harder to find out where to start recycling. So, we did the homework for you – a cheat sheet for the most common batteries and how to properly dispose of them.

7 Ways to Power Up

August

In an age of constant innovation and a time where designers are leading the new eco-tech craze with brilliant ideas, we set out on a hunt for coolest new ways to recharge your rechargeables. Sure, most of them are still just concepts, but we’re jazzed about them all the same.

Your Battery Questions Answered

September

Since Americans purchase nearly 3 billion dry-cell batteries every year, we knew it was a safe bet that our readers had their own battery quandaries. You asked, and we answered.

MyCall2Recycle Makes History

October

Recycling these reusable power packs may not be on the top of your to-do list, but a recent campaign by Call2Recycle proved it’s a high priority for environmental enthusiasts across the country. In just a few short months, they reached their goal (and beyond) of collecting more than 1 million pounds of batteries for recycling.

Looking Forward

To get a retrospective on the year and an insider’s take on what we can look forward to, Earth911 caught up with Call2Recycle CEO, Carl Smith.

This year, he was disappointed in the lack of government participation in environmental matters. “One prediction [for 2010] that did not occur [was] our expectation that the federal government would spend more time on environmental issues, and in the end, they have not,” he says. But, Call2Recycle’s prediction that the federal government would “take a harsher stance” on transporting lithium-ion batteries did come true.

North of the border, Smith notes that Canada (where Call2Recycle also operates collection programs) stepped up its game. “We did predict that recycling programs for all household batteries (including alkaline) would be mandated in Canadian provinces, and that happened in several provinces.”

According to Smith, something to watch in 2011 is a trend directly relating to extended producer responsibility (EPR). “We believe states are going to consider legislation that would require battery manufacturers to take care of the end-of-life disposal of their products,” he writes, which could translate into big changes in how you deal with your batteries if your state does not already have recycling legislation.

Additionally, lithium-ion batteries are rapidly increasing and “dominating the marketplace.” Smith says, “Lithium-ion batteries are lighter and perform well for products that need significant charge, so oftentimes they replace the nickel metal hydride and nickel cadmium chemistries.” This means you may see the types of batteries your gadgets use shift, as better technologies become more widely available.

And most importantly, what’s the outlook for battery recycling next year? Smith expects collections to grow “well into double digits, buoyed by heightened consumer awareness of the importance of recycling.” This year alone, his organization saw an 11 percent increase in collections, setting up 2011 to be even better.

So, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back, as this year marked marked improvements in the way we recycle these little power-packs. But don’t get too relaxed – next year is right around the corner.

Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. Call2Recycle is one of these partners.

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