It's the Environment, Stupid.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Rechargeable or 'disposable' batteries?

My digital camera died on me. I think I got it back when 3 megapixels were exciting - which is nearly ancient in electronic years. I knew it was going but I hoped it would at least last through the week. Since I'm in Seattle this week for a friend's wedding (an important Kodak moment) I had to rush out and buy a new one.

With my first digital camera I researched what was out there and bought one from a local camera shop. Not this time. I did no research what so ever. (Enter circumstance into my latest purchasing decision). Yesterday I had to drive to a big box bridal store to pick up the shoes I am required to wear in this wedding. Next door happened to be a big box electronics store. I went in to check out their digital camera selection. Going in my basic criteria was price (not high end) and size (I wanted to get a smaller camera).

I rely entirely too much on the sales associates opinions in these situations. So as I'm asking the young man assigned to the digital camera section that morning what the differences were between the models, I came up with a few other criteria - the limiting one became batteries. Three out of four of the mid-range models took AA batteries. Only one had a rechargable lithium ion battery. When I expressed that I'd prefer the rechargable battery, he said all batteries wind up in landfills anyway. When I countered with dropping your batteries off to be recycled, he came right back and corrected me - they don't actually recycle them, they just collect them and put them in special bags (he had the proper name for these bags) that prevent leakage, but they still wind up in landfills. My digital camera sales associate turned out to be a former hazardous waste disposal employee. Although instead of collecting batteries, he mainly went around and collected amalgam and mercury from area dentists offices.

So which is better? Rechargeable or 'disposable'? (I went with the rechargeable). And what am I going to do with my now defunct camera? (I think I'll check to see if the manufacturer has any takeback programs in place.)

4 Comments:

  • Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't the difference that you use a rechargeable battery for years before it goes to landfill whereas you use a disposable battery only once?

    Although - apparently you can now get special rechargers for normal disposable batteries, that are safe and give you 100-odd uses of your disposable batteries.

    And, rechargeable batteries do have nastier chemicals in them when they finally go to landfill don't they?

    By Blogger David Jeffery, at 20:31  

  • I'd be interested to see some life-cycle analysis done on rechargable v standrd batteries. I wonder how much energy gets used recharging the batteries versus what gets used reproducing throw-away ones?

    By Blogger P-Style, at 22:20  

  • Thanks for the comments - and David, no you're not missing anything. Rechargeable seems like the obvious choice, but it is still the lesser of two evils. I suppose I would love to find a powering option that wasn't evil at all. Until then, I'll go with rechargeable.

    By Blogger Amy Stodghill, at 18:39  

  • I feel disposable batteries cost the envoroment more as you olny use them once before you throw them away wear as rechargable ones are abled to use for years to come. Even thought the chemicals in them are worse there worth less of a damage as you can use them for 5 years, 10 years or even 20 years wearas the disposable you use ohn eand yet they still contain chemicals they arent green world friendly they are made to work not to help the enviroment.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 02:46  

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