Better Rechargeable Batteries for Powering Electronic Devices

Reader Contribution by John D. Ivanko and Inn Serendipity
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My wife, Lisa Kivirist, and I try to live Earth Day every day. We use the sun, thanks to a 10.8-kW PV system, to completely power our Inn Serendipity homestead and recharge our plug-in electric Toyota Prius Prime car. We grow most of our own food organically. We prefer to watch sunsets, not the TV. We enjoy community potlucks featuring local food, not black tie events with flown-in “fresh” fish.

But, like most people, we also use numerous electronic devices that are powered by batteries. From powering carbon monoxide detectors to flashlights needed in emergencies, from keeping our Blink security cameras operational to powering our DVD remote controller, we inescapably find ourselves using batteries of various sizes and for different needs. We avoid single-use alkaline batteries, which seem to be nearly impossible to recycle for free. We’re always mindful that in nature, there is no waste. We try not to buy anything that can’t be recycled or turned into something else or used for spare parts.

As it turns out, about 3 billion batteries are thrown away every year in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, with the majority of them ending up in landfills. About 86,000 tons of waste every year is accounted for by single-use alkaline batteries. We have used various Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries with mixed success for years, but find that it can take a long time to recharge them when depleted.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held every January in Las Vegas, my tech-savvy son, Liam Kivirist, and I found a number of companies addressing the need for battery power for the electronics we now use and rely upon on a daily basis, but without adding to the growing e-waste problem. Pale Blue Lithium Rechargeable Batteries and GP ReCyko are two options we’ve tested and have found to work well.

Pale Blue USB Rechargeable Smart Batteries

Coming in both AA and AAA size, Pale Blue rechargeable batteries can be reused about 1,000 times and have a recharge time of only 1 to 2 hours, much faster than traditional rechargeable batteries. Pale Blue rechargeable batteries have an on-board charging and safety circuit, so we can recharge anywhere with a micro USB cable that’s included. The batteries can be topped off at any time. A built-in LED indicator lets us know when the battery is done charging.

As for how well they work, we used them in our Blink security cameras for daily photos and to keep us abreast of our home temperature when we were away on speaking and other journalism work. They lasted the entire time we were away without one recharge. When used in a LED flashlight, the light was much brighter. The batteries also hold their charge better when not in use, another benefit of the Pale Blue lithium chemistry and smart circuitry. According to Pale Blue, one pack of Pale Blue USB rechargeable lithium batteries can replace up to 4,000 alkaline single-use batteries.

GP ReCyko Rechargeable Batteries

These batteries are an NiMH-based option for AA and AAA size batteries, and can connect to their charger with a USB-to-micro-USB cable, which you can buy as a set. The GP ReCyko batteries can be recharged about 1,000 times. They do, however, take longer to charge, about eight hours.

End of Life: Recycling Batteries

When it comes time to recycle our rechargeable batteries, we’ll be contacting Call2Recycle, North America’s first and largest battery stewardship program for recycling batteries, especially rechargeable batteries. According to Call2Recycle, there is currently no national stewardship solution to allow for free recycling of single-use alkaline batteries, except in Vermont.

So, we’ll continue to avoid single-use alkaline batteries, even though the 1996 Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act helped phase out the use of mercury, among other toxic materials, in single-use batteries in the U.S. Reusing rechargeable batteries, like Pale Blue, and eventually recycling them seems to be the wiser solution to meet our power needs.

John D. Ivanko and his wife, Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural RenaissanceHomemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef cookbook, along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by renewable energy. Both are speakers at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, most recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, a 10.8-kW solar power station and millions of ladybugs. Read all of John’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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