Batteries are a hugely popular and useful method for powering electronics, particularly in an era in which we are used to carrying portable electronic devices around in our bags and pockets on a daily basis. From cell phones to laptops, digital cameras to kids’ toys, we can find batteries everywhere and demand for them is only growing. However, despite the convenience that they offer us, batteries aren’t without their faults, particularly when it comes to the environment.
Long-term environmental impact of batteries
The way batteries work is in their ability to slowly convert chemical energy into electrical energy. The chemical energy is stored inside the battery and only when the battery is inserted into an electronic device does it begin to generate electrical power. Unfortunately, the chemicals required for this process – such as lead, lithium, mercury, and cadmium – can be toxic, corrosive or otherwise hazardous.
Strict regulations on the manufacturing of batteries ensure that we’re unlikely to be harmed by day-to-day use since these hazardous chemicals are safely contained within the battery. However, problems can arise in the disposal of batteries once their chemical energy has depleted and they no longer work. People often dispose of batteries in their household trash which can lead to the batteries winding up in a landfill. Gradually, these batteries will begin to break down and the materials within them can negatively impact the environment many years down the line.
Battery disposal and human health
When the environment is negatively impacted by batteries, human health can be impacted too. It goes without saying that the harsh chemicals inside batteries are hazardous to humans, but these days it’s unlikely that we’ll come directly into contact with them from a battery itself unless it has been damaged. However, when batteries in landfill harm the environment, we risk unknowingly coming into contact with the chemicals via the environment around us.
It can be difficult to understand the true impact of improper battery disposal on public health, but it is known that some of the chemicals and toxic metals in batteries are carcinogens, meaning that they can cause cancer. If batteries are routinely disposed of in landfill, they could lead to an increase in the risk of cancer and other serious health issues.
Safe disposal of old batteries
When a battery comes to the end of its life, it can seem easy enough to toss it in the household trash. However, this means that the battery will almost certainly end up in landfill where it could harm both the environment and human health. Instead, you should ensure old batteries are correctly recycled. Every community has different procedures for dealing with the disposal of electronics, so if you’re unsure of where to take your used batteries it is best to check with your local government.
Sometimes electronics stores will collect used batteries in order to send them for safe recycling, meaning that all you have to do is drop your old batteries off. Similarly, cell phone manufacturers or carriers often allow customers to send used phones to them in order that they can recycle them. Car batteries may also be accepted by car dealerships or repair shops. If you live in the Tulsa area and want to keep your used batteries out of Oklahoma landfill, be sure to check out the M.e.t Recycling center which accepts old batteries.
Protect the environment with rechargeable batteries
Wherever possible, consider using rechargeable batteries for your electronic devices in order to minimize negative environmental impact. Far fewer nonrenewable natural resources are consumed when a rechargeable battery is used over and over again to generate the same amount of energy as multiple single-use batteries. Plus, rechargeable batteries tend to be more cost-effective in the long run. There may be a greater initial cost to purchase rechargeables, but you’ll soon make a return on your investment if it means you won’t need to buy more single-use batteries in the future.
When rechargeable batteries are used, fewer single-use batteries will wind up in recycling centers where natural resources are often used in the recycling process. Remember the three Rs when it comes to waste – reduce, reuse, recycle. Recycling is vital for protecting the environment from hazardous waste, but we can protect it even further by reducing the amount of waste we produce in the first place. With rechargeable batteries, you will significantly reduce waste by reusing the same battery time and time again.
Protect Oklahoma landfill sites and the environment
Batteries are infinitely handy in our technology-focused world and many of us would struggle to live without them, but convenience needn’t result in damage to our planet or our health. By recycling old batteries and making the switch to rechargeable batteries, we can keep harmful chemicals out of landfills and help to keep our environment clean and healthy.