Thursday, 08 March 2012 20:20

Batteries and Choosing the Greener Option

Written by  Alterra

It’s no secret that landfills all around the world are filling up at a rapid and uncontrollable pace. With the exponential increase in the human population and sprawling urban and suburban areas we are in danger of running out of room for all of our garbage, and garbage is something we have a lot of. You don’t have look further than your local supermarket or convenience store to take note of the excessive packaging encasing many of our daily consumable items and necessities. But we can’t let manufacturers and retailers take all of the blame as elaborate packaging can help sell products – but society itself is becoming more and more wasteful. With rapidly changing trends, tastes, technology, the availability of food, our on-the-go lifestyle, and obsession with consumerism we throw away more than we ever have before. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of multiple municipalities, cities, countries etc., and many dedicated individuals, the widespread use of recycling, composting, reusing, and repurposing hasn’t made enough of an impact to offset the ever increasing mountains of waste eclipsing our landfills.

The frustrating truth of the matter is that the majority of waste the in landfills (estimates range up to 70%) are items which could be recycled or composted. And most of that is household waste! That’s an astronomical percentage and literally tones of landfill space that could be spared. Now, most people are pretty good about recycling the basics – paper, plastics, glass, cardboard, etc. – But what about the tricky stuff, the more inconvenient items that can’t just be tossed in the blue bin? Items like batteries.

Batteries are in fact recyclable, there are multiple components and chemicals which make up the battery that can be salvaged and recycled. But realistically, how many people actually recycle batteries? While estimates of battery recycling trends are on the rise, most people still do not recycle batteries. In fact, studies suggest that only about 2% of people actually properly recycle batteries. Yes, it can be a pain – you have to collect and store them somewhere, they might get mixed in with your fresh batteries, you have to drive them over to recycling depot, and hey, they’re so small –  and you may think tossing one or two in the kitchen garbage can’t make that big of difference, right? WRONG. Realistically, maybe one or two batteries wouldn’t make that big of a difference…but when millions of people dispose of batteries in household garbage that means there are multiple millions of batteries in the landfill. Batteries leak hazardous chemicals in the soil of landfills which is toxic to the environment, to humans, and to animals. These toxic chemicals can and do seep into surrounding waterways and can poison local populations! Batteries also take an incomparable amount of time to break down in a landfill – estimates range from 200 to 1000 years! And while they are indeed small there are adding literal tones of mass to landfills for tons of time. And those are just the stats regarding a normal disposable alkaline battery. Rechargeable batteries are a whole different story – and a whole lot worse.

Both retailers and consumers like the sounds of the rechargeable battery – it costs more, lasts longer, and is the “greener” option – so what’s not to like? Well, for starters, rechargeable batteries rarely re-charge to a full power level, they die quicker, and they are useless unless you have the charger handy. And while they may at one time have been considered a “greener” option, rechargeable batteries are far from being green. They contain more hazardous and potentially toxic chemicals, they require additional energy to charge (charger usually plugs into wall outlet), and the production, use, and disposal of rechargeable batteries creates an awfullot of C02 and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions! The same lack of recycling trend applies to rechargeable batteries, and while in theory there may be less of them – due to their multiple uses potential – the increase in hazardous chemicals makes rechargeable batteries much more toxic in the landfills.

So what’s the solution? Recycle your batteries orbuy an eco-battery! Yes – they do exist! Eco-concerned manufacturers have been successful in creating earth friendly batteries, some of which are even safe for landfill disposable (however, recycling is encouraged). Batteries like Perf Go Green, Fuji Enviro Max and Eco Alkalines™ are considered to be earth-friendly batteries. However, some are greener than others, Eco Alkalines™ disposable alkaline batteries are both earth friendly and landfill safe. In addition Eco Alkalines™ are the world’s first and only Carbon Neutral battery and certified as such by Carbonfund.org Foundation.org. Not only do they have an 88% efficiency rate in their manufacturing process, but Eco Alkalines™ also offsets 100% of their carbon emissions. And all of these companies claim their batteries perform just as well or even better than the leading national battery brands – at a competitive price! This almost sounds almost too good to be true, right? Well there is a catch – and it has nothing to do with the batteries themselves - it concerns where you can purchase these batteries, which for the record, is frustratingly not a lot of places. Why? Why, when we have the technology for an equal battery that’s less hazardous to the environment, would we not be able to purchase it? And why when we have such an overwhelming need to rectify the issue of our overfilling landfills would retailers not want to make this product available for their customers? It just doesn’t make sense.

In general, many retailers have made impressive strides in both their efforts to be a greener company – in terms of sustainability, energy consumption, waste management, etc. – and in their offering of green products. In most places a customer can choose between a regular product and a greener version of the same product. A quick trip down any aisle in the supermarket can tell you that. Consumers can choose to buy sustainably grown vegetables, sustainably farmed meats and fish, they can choose to buy green cleaners and solvents, green dishwashing detergent, green laundry detergent, toilet paper, napkins, beauty products, health products, etc., etc., etc. So why don’t they have the choice to buy a green battery? It seems that the battery category may be struggling with a bit of monopolization by the dominate battery brands. Many retailers and vendors have long-standing relationships with these leading battery brands, and often have exclusivities which prevent the addition of a green battery to that retailer’s particular battery offering. With the very public and general knowledge regarding the much exceeded capacities of landfills, and the awareness of the toxicity of normal alkaline batteries and their detrimental effect of the environment one could argue that these leading brands’ s monopolization over the battery market is also in fact, a monopolization of the environment.

The sustainability of our environment concerns everyone, and if people are to encouraged to choose the greener option they at least need to be able to purchase the greener choice.

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