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Rechargeable batteries help keep America beautiful

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There are some simple things which can be done to help green the environment.

By now, everyone has heard about the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle campaign supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other organizations. But few people are putting into practice such seemingly inconsequential minutiae as proper recycling of 1.5 V- 9 volt (V) batteries.

According to the EPA consumer purchases of the common disposable 1.5- 9 V batteries is hardly inconsequential. Americans purchase billions of batteries per year, and while car batteries are a successful part of the recycling renaissance, smaller batteries still remain in the dark ages.

Research data proves that consumer choices do matter. In fact, studies indicate that alkaline batteries comprise 80% of battery purchases. However, less than 10% of small batteries are being effectively collected.

Why do so many people discard their used batteries in the trash, instead of recycling them? According to VD Garrett in "How to Recycle Batteries" at Eco-Friendly Tips: "The answer is simple: People just don’t know how to recycle batteries, or are too lazy to do so."

This is significant because America's landfill problems, although out of sight, have taken on mind-blowing proportions. Few realize, for instance, that since the 1990s mega-landfills in Virginia have received kilotons of municipal wastes from eastern seaboard states and large metropolitan areas (such as New York City and Washington DC) every day.

"Virginia has 15 mega-landfills; one recently built facility 'could in theory grow to be 500 feet tall, which is the height of the Washington Monument,' [Dr. Vivian E.] Thomson writes, 'and could extend across an area equal to a thousand football fields," quotes Maura Singleton in "Sorting Through the Garbage," a review of Dr. Vivian Thomson's book, Garbage In, Garbage Out.

What happens to all those electrical batteries buried amid the decomposing gas-producing mush? They decompose, generating acidifying leachate, which over time, helps damage and cause leakage of landfill bottom linings. Batteries themselves also contribute toxic heavy metals and corrosive electrolytes to pathogenic toxic stews, only tiny amounts of which can despoil entire groundwaters.

It's frightening to imagine who the buck will be passed on to when the linings begin to fail.

However one positive indication that things are gradually improving are the Call2Recycle and Earth911.com programs founded by the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC). There's a growing online list of stores, and last year a record 3.6 million pounds worth of batteries was recycled.

In ''Taking Batteries Green," Electronic Component News (ECN) contributor Thomas Blaha supports the wisdom of investing in rechargeables: "As rechargeable batteries become less toxic and increasingly ubiquitous in everyday use, the cost of rechargeable cells may come down so as long as raw material prices remain stable."

Affordability and reusability can indeed come in small packages. One new improved product out in the market place demonstrating rechargeability and affordability is Rayovac's Charger product designed for recharging NiMH/NiCd batteries. The economic version of Charger, which takes 8 hours to charge 4 AAA or AA batteries, now costs under $15.

Rayovac was named International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Award Honorees for two of its products: the Rayovac 2 Hour Power mobile backup charger and the Rayovac 15-Minute Battery Charger.

While the Rayovac 15-minute Battery Charger is reputedly the fastest charger on the market, Rayovac's most recent innovations are better still.

Rayovac's Universal Charger may become the latest benchmark in household sustainability because it can presumably recharge 2 or 4 AA/AAA/C/D or 1 9V NiMH (nickel-metal-hydride) or NiCD (nickel-cadmium) batteries.

If a best-value battery recharger can save a household four sets of slim batteries over the course of a year, think how universal chargers will help keep America beautiful. More than sustainability and reuseability, however, will be the self-satisfaction of buying less toxic rechargeable NiMH batteries.

Of course these batteries still have to be properly disposed of.

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