What You Need to Know About Rechargeable Batteries, Lead in Bathtubs and Beneficial Insects

Turns out, rechargeable batteries are easier to use than once thought, and lead in tubs could be dangerous for young children.

| March/April 2002

Rechargeable batteries

I want to use rechargeable batteries to save money and reduce landfill waste, but I am totally confused. When I go to the store I can’t figure out what to buy.

If you are going to use batteries, rechargeables are the way to go. The energy price tag for disposable batteries can range from $400 to $1,000 per kilowatt hour, compared to less than $1 per kilowatt hour for rechargeable batteries. With a solar-powered recharger, once you pay for the charger and the batteries, the energy is free!

There are two kinds of rechargeable batteries: nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cad) and nickel metal hydride (NiMH). Ni-Cads are the most widely sold type. While they are a better choice than disposable batteries, Ni-Cads are made from toxic metals that need to be disposed of properly. They can be recharged approximately 750 times.

Nickel metal hydride batteries are made without heavy metals. Their high energy density delivers up to twice the energy of Ni-Cad batteries. The downsides are that NiMHs generally have shorter run times and shorter life expectancies than Ni-Cads. NiMHs are usually good for only 400 cycles.

Batteries and rechargers can be found at specialty electronics stores such as Radio Shack, and online at Real Goods (www.realgoods.com). Rechargeable Ni-Cad batteries and lead-acid batteries must be disposed of at hazardous waste facilities. NiMH batteries are the best of both worlds—rechargeable and environmentally safe.

Through the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), more than 300 communities in the United States and Canada and more than 30,000 retail locations collect and recycle all portable rechargeable batteries, including Ni-Cad, Ni-MH, Lithium Ion (Li-Ion), and Small Sealed Lead (PBS) rechargeable batteries. To locate your nearest battery drop-off, call (800) 822-8837 or check out www.rbrc.org.

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