Rechargeable Batteries – Worth The Price?

Battery TopBatteries are a part of so many electronic devices these days that it’s hard to keep track. You need them for alarm clocks, electric shavers, cameras, TV remotes, video game controllers, and those pesky little fire and carbon monoxide detectors.

I bet if you walked around your living space and counted the number of devices with either a primary or backup battery, you’d be amazed at just how prevalent and critical these are in your daily life.

This consumer battery industry is a 50+ billion dollars segment.  The waste of the industry is quite incredible as well; 15 billion batteries are thrown out every year, which means batteries account for 750 million pounds of waste. The problem is that so many of the everyday electronics we need and use require batteries, but after its usefulness, it becomes an issue in terms of the environment.

Rechargable Batteries

The three main types of rechargeable batteries that are most readily available are lithium-ion, NiMH( nickel metal hydride) and NiCd(nickel-cadmium). Out of those three, the most toxic and harmful to the environment are the NiCD, so it is best to avoid them, if possible.   It is relatively easy to properly dispose of these rechargeable batteries.   Major chains such as Radio Shack, Best Buy, Staples and many others have collection bins in their stores and gladly accept them.

The bummer is that if improperly discarded, rechargeable batteries are more toxic to the environment than normal alkaline batteries.

There is a rechargeable battery speciality website – Green Batteries, which has lots of helpful information on environmentally friendly NiMH and Li-ion rechargeable batteries and battery chargers plus great prices on NiMH and Lithium ion rechargeable batteries, chargers, and accessories.

Single Use Disposable Batteries

In 2012, Rayovac, Panasonic, Duracell, and Energizer brands formed the Corporation For Battery Recycling, to maximize the reuse of spent batteries and get to zero waste eventually.  Current they are experimenting and operating six collection facilities, in California and Minnesota with the goal of expanding the footprint.

Recycling Disposable Batteries

To bust an urban myth, several years back, mercury was eliminated from common non-rechargeable batteries.  These are made with common metals such as zinc, steel, and manganese.  The bummer is that new batteries cannot be manufactured from the spent batteries.  Apparently, the metal has to be a higher, more pure content for new batteries.  But these batteries can be used in other applications and products.  The challenge is getting to the point, where it is economically viable.


Rechargeable batteries can last hundreds and often thousands of chargers and the electricity they use is better than producing and transporting new batteries every year. One of the negatives of rechargeable batteries is that they lose about 1% of their power every day if they are not in use, while disposable batteries only lose about 1% a year. Rechargeable batteries do not last as long as disposable, but this is negligible when you consider it costs pennies to recharge batteries every year. The real question we all want to know, is which are more expensive?

Payback of Disposable vs. Rechargables

Disposables are cheaper by the battery and can cost from 50 cents to 2 dollars a battery. Rechargeable batteries cost between 2-4 dollars each, and you can often get a charger and pack of 4 batteries for between $15 and $20.

Let’s do a price comparison if you are just going to use your batteries for video games and your digital camera. Back in college, I might as well have considered myself a double-major with a BS in video game science. Two of us easily could easily go through a 20 pack of batteries. Digital cameras are the ultimate battery hogs as well, and depending on trips you can look at using around 10 batteries a year to power this memory collector. This is a total of 30 batteries a year for this test:

30 disposable AA batteries at $0.60 each = $18/year

VERSUS  One universal (all sizes) battery charger ($20) Plus 4 batteries($15) = $35

Breakeven: Two years, probably even sooner, if you factor in other types of batteries.

Plus you’ll have many more years of charges left in your rechargeable, not to mention the convenience of not having to run out and buy batteries and then be concerned what to do with them.

GreenBlizzard shopped around Amazon and found a few different recharger options (Universal Rapid Charger, Digital AA and AAA Charger, Rayovac Multi-type Battery Charger.   Each of these can handle a wide assortment of battery sizes, plus some attractive battery packs.

You may have noticed I left out the price of electricity for recharging your batteries and I did because the cost of recharging all of your batteries for a whole year is negligible coming to less than $1 a year in electricity costs.

The one thing you may want to consider is to use disposable batteries in critical electronic equipment like fire detectors simply because disposables don’t lose their charge as quickly when being used. Other than that, you might as well make the switch to rechargeable and start saving yourself money and reducing the amount of waste you create.

So go green, realize even more green living, simply by changing the way you replenish batteries in all those life critical devices.

Don’t missed these two: Household Battery Recycling,  Best Gifts For A Green Handyman,  

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About the author

John R. Garnet

John's work in the energy market fostered his interest in the environment. He recently completed his graduate work at George Mason University, But more interestingly, John has a passion for food and cooking and to provides some light-hearted tips to make people's lives greener while enjoy the good life with everyday practical tips from brewing tea, growing basil, or drinking raw milk.