Future innovations

Most of our posts have looked at why we need to recycle our used batteries. But limiting e-waste is not just about proper disposal. It’s also about minimising how many batteries we use.

The obvious answer? Rechargeables! These not only last longer, but can be used multiple times and cost less in the long run. There are also many cheap usb powered lights available, some costing as little at $3. But, in recent years many new technologies and innovations are popping up.

I thought I’d start with a fun one. A toy car that runs on sugar! This child’s toy runs on stuff kids love, but probably shouldn’t have too much of… soft drink! It’s developed by TOMY ENE Pocket and SONY, and it gives the perfect opportunity to trial this ‘bio-battery’. Speed and distance vary depending on what liquid is used, but apparently grape juice works best. There are also other bio-battery powered toys and devices in development including fans and hand-powered generators for lights.

This year a 15 year old girl from British Columbia invented a flashlight powered by the human hand. (Read and watch here) It uses thermal energy transferred through a human’s skin to the base of the torch which heats tiles inside a the tube. While it doesn’t create a very bright light, I think it suggests there is an untapped source of power within us all!

Source: Youtube

Source: Youtube

Fluidic Energy on behalf of Arizona State University has developed a zinc-air battery. Metal-air batteries have been around for about 100 years but have never been able to recharge. It uses ionic liquids (low temperature liquid salts) rather than water based electrolytes and reportedly has 11x the energy density than the best lithium-ion batteries. Designed to replace diesel gensets and lead-acid batteries, it is completely sustainable and contains no cadmium, mercury or fossil fuels making it one of the least toxic large-scale options available to industry.

I’m wondering whether any of our readers have stumbled upon any exciting new alternatives to battery power? Let us know in the comment section below. Or ask any questions you want answered in one of our post!

-Lexie

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How does North America do it?

Our last few posts have been a little bit gloom and doom, so we thought that we would take the opportunity to look abroad at some programs that are doing an absolutely great job of battery recycling.

First up is Call2Recycle.

call2recycle

Call2Recycle is North America’s first (est. 1996) and largest battery stewardship program, collecting and recycling rechargeable batteries and cellphones at no cost in the United States and Canada.

Product stewardship aims to minimize the environmental impacts of products in the market place, advocating that organizations look at the whole lifecycle of a product and ensure that no harm comes to the environment.

Call2Recycle has a network of more than 30,000 collection sites throughout North America, and is a leader in product stewardship (just last year Call2Recycle diverted more than 4.5 million kg of batteries from landfill!). One of the best things I think about the program is that it meets the most rigorous recycling standards in the world and no waste materials from the recycling process are exported out of the country.

This is an organization that is making great leaps in battery recycling and is definitely a source of inspiration for us here at Recharge the Environment. The program also has an amazing presence online where they are a hub for all information about battery recycling, and at the same time raise awareness about the importance of battery recycling.

Yet, how does Call2Recycle work?

Call2Recycle was developed by five concerned battery manufacturers as a voluntary, industry-run initiative to keep the heavy metals from rechargeable batteries out of the solid waste stream. That’s right it’s a non-for-profit that is industry-funded.

How fantastic does that sound?

What are some other great programs out there? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments below and we will investigate!

 

– Lilly

5 Hard Facts to Know About Batteries

1. No Battery Can Last Forever

All batteries, including rechargeables, eventually die. This is because the chemicals inside the battery degrade over time and with usage.

DeadBattery

2. All Batteries Discharge Regardless of Whether They are Being Used or Not

Yep, it’s true, your battery runs out even if you aren’t using it. Some rechargeable batteries (the not so lucky Nickel-Cadmium and Nickel-Metal Hydride) self discharge at a much faster rate than alkaline batteries (a type of non-rechargeable battery). At room temperature these batteries will self discharge a few percent per day!

3. Don’t Just Charge Everything

Don’t recharge a battery unless it is specifically marked “rechargeable.” Attempting to recharge a primary (non-rechargeable) battery could result in leakage or rupture.

4. Not All Rechargeable Batteries Were Created Equal

It took a while to get the rechargeable battery right. The first widely available rechargeable batteries were Nickel-Cadmium. These batteries suffer from something called ‘memory effect.’

PSC1011_H2_042

Basically, if these batteries weren’t fully discharged every time they were used, they would quickly lose capacity.

The most prominent batteries now are Lithium-Ion, which are found in most phones and laptops. These batteries have a long life; they consistently hold charge and often have sophisticated chargers that prevent overcharging. Unfortunately, these are relatively expensive, and, as of yet, are not available in standard household sizes, e.g. AAA or AA.

5. Calibrate Your Batteries

Remember, back in the day, when you bought a new phone you would let it drain completely before recharging it for the first time to make the battery last longer?

This process is called ‘calibrating’, and was necessary back in the days when Nickel-Cadmium batteries were common as it helped prevent the fateful ‘memory effect’.

Now that most of our portable devices use Lithium-Ion batteries, calibrating isn’t that important – it certainly doesn’t increase the life span of your battery.

But, have you ever gone outside when your phone battery was half full and had it not even last an hour?

Every so often, Lithium-Ion batteries lose their ability to judge how much charge they have left! If you calibrate them, you can reset your battery so they can once again be accurate.

BONUS FACT: You Can Recycle All of Your Batteries

All used batteries can be recycled and should be recovered to conserve valuable metals and to reduce impacts in landfill.

In our next post, Lexie will be discussing how this relatively simply fact, can become quite convoluted.

Have you got any questions about batteries that you want answered? Ask in the comments below and we will answer!

– Lilly