038: Use batteries responsibly

Cost of taking action: £/$/€ NIL

Batteries are a wonderful convenience and they give us a lot of freedom to use power wherever we wish. However, using them comes with a responsibility to use them safely and responsibly, including in their disposal.

So this action is to use batteries less if you can, responsibly where you must, and to recycle them properly.

Here we are referring to batteries you will find around your household, not car batteries or EV batteries, or batteries with more technical usage.

Use batteries less

First step in using batteries responsibly is to use them less if we can. There are lots of ways in which we can do this, here are just a few:

  • switch to rechargeable batteries where you can, thus reducing the use of disposables
  • don’t buy electric toothbrushes with single use batteries included – these are an appalling use of resources
  • buy devices that are USB – chargeable, here’s an example for the kitchen
  • avoid children’s toys that use batteries (this makes things quieter too)
  • don’t buy books and cards with sounds built in, they use button batteries
  • consider a traditional wind up clock instead of a battery powered one
  • avoid battery powered Christmas lights, use mains or USB lights
  • don’t buy electronic scales, your weight is measured accurately enough with mechanical scales
  • if you can think of others, please tell us – tag us in a social media post

Use batteries responsibly

If batteries are necessary, please use them responsibly. This means:

  • always use the right batteries for your device
  • don’t leave them for long periods to corrode inside your device, it will be ruined and not repairable
  • remove batteries if your device is connected to the mains
  • use rechargables if you can, and charge them according to the instructions, they will last longer
  • be wary of leakage, the fluids and chemicals from batteries is highly toxic
  • don’t let batteries get too hot or too cold
  • keep batteries away from children
  • take extra care with button batteries, THESE CAN KILL!
  • keep batteries sealed until they are needed
  • Keep batteries away from metal tools, the cutlery drawer, and so on

Dispose of batteries properly

Disposable batteries should be recycled properly, as should rechargables once they eventually reach the point where they no longer charge properly. Your local recycling centre will have a special container for batteries and many shops and supermarkets also offer “battery bins”.

Make sure you recycle the packaging too!

Batteries must not go into the “normal” rubbish system.

If they end up in incinerators they can cause explosions.

If they end up in landfill they leach chemicals into the environment as well as corroding and leaving plastic. Batteries are one of the most polluting items that are thrown away by average households.

If you are forced to dispose of leaking or corroded batteries, do so very carefully and be sure to wash your hands afterwards. The chemicals will burn.

If you discard toys, electronic equipment, or things like “disposable” electric toothbrushes, books and cards with sound modules in them, or other devices with batteries, you must remove the batteries first and recycle them separately.

Why is this important?

As stated above, batteries are highly polluting items as well as being potentially dangerous. There are different types of batteries which can contain dangerous chemicals including lead, cadmium, zinc, lithium and even mercury. When batteries begin to corrode in landfill sites these chemicals leak into the ground and cause soil and water pollution. When chemicals contaminate soil and water, wildlife and the environment can be harmed. On top of that these chemicals enter our own water supplies and food chains!

Limiting your use of batteries and disposing of them properly will:

  • reduce the use of dangerous chemicals and metals in their manufacture
  • protect the environment – wildlife, soil and water
  • reduce the risks of damage to our waste disposal systems
  • protect children from injury and death
  • protect our food chains
  • protect our water supplies

Take action … please take great care when using batteries!

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