Do rechargeable batteries save money and reduce waste?

Rechargeable batteries Vs disposable batteries: Is it really worth the trouble of buying a battery charger and charge our batteries every time they run out of power?

Is it not way easier to replace an already exhausted battery for a new one and just keep that exhausted battery on a box until you have time to take it to a collection spot?

Well, disposable batteries may have both an economic and a environmental impact so keep reading to know if in your particular case it is is worth to start using rechargeable batteries.

A battery charger loaded with rechargeable batteries and surrounded by many disposable batteries

IKEA has recently made an announcement stating that: 

Following IKEA’s commitment to inspire and enable people to live a healthier and more sustainable life at home, all non-rechargeable alkaline batteries will be removed from the global home furnishing range by October 2021. 

With this decision, IKEA wishes to inspire consumers who need to frequently use batteries to make a switch to rechargeable batteries. 

Regular use over time enables consumers to both save money and reduce waste at home.’ 

On the same announcement, IKEA mentions that:

‘Already after 10 charges of a rechargeable NiMH battery, such as the LADDA range sold in IKEA stores, greenhouse gas emissions are lower as compared to using alkaline batteries to obtain the same amount of energy. 

When about 50 charges are reached, the overall environmental impact [2] of NiMH batteries is equal or even less than the impact of using alkaline batteries.[3]‘ 

As well as:

‘ IKEA sold roughly 300 million ALKALISK alkaline batteries last year and estimates that discontinuing them could lead to a reduction of 5,000 tons of global waste if all customers switched to rechargeable batteries and used them at least 50 cycles (which is just 10% of the 500 charge/discharge cycles each LADDA battery is rated for).’ 

Well, from IKEA’s perspective, it really looks like that it makes sense to use rechargeable batteries, but let’s have a look to what is the economic and environmental impact for the average household.

Is it worth to buy and use rechargeable batteries?

A rechargeable battery it is roughly 4 times more expensive than a disposable battery and on the top of that we also need to buy a battery charger.

Also, charging the batteries does consume some electricity so does charging batteries increase our electricity bill?

All those factors need to be considered as well our own individual situation. 

Rechargeable batteries

♦ If as an individual you only use batteries for your TV remote control or maybe for your wireless mouse, then having to buy a charger for the more expensive rechargeable batteries makes no sense. 

This is because you will be using maybe 8 batteries per year and the payback period will be far too long. In your case, from the money perspective, it makes sense to use disposable batteries

♦ If as an individual you have a hobby (e.g. photography) that requires the frequent use of batteries, then it really makes sense for you to buy rechargeable batteries.

♦ Also, if you have one or more children at home you must know by now that many toys consume batteries at an alarming rate. In your case it is quite probable that you will be saving money by using rechargeable batteries.

As shown on the picture above, it takes only 16 recharges to pay back for the cost of buying a battery charger and the additional cost of having to buy rechargeable batteries. 

For some families, 16 battery recharges can happen over a single Christmas period…

But, how much does it cost to recharge the batteries? This factor should be also considered when deciding if buying rechargeable batteries it is worth, isn’t it?

Well, personally we pay 0,217 euro per every kWh we consume and using a plug in power meter we have measured that charging 4 AAA batteries does cost us just over 2 cents. 

The cost of charging the batteries it is nearly negligible.

The environmental impact of disposable or rechargeable batteries

But, apart from the cost, there is another very important factor that we need to have in consideration. The environmental impact.

According to a publication on The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment: ‘For the impact categories Acidification, Human toxicity (cancer effects), and Particulate matter, an “inefficient” use of the rechargeable devices (for only 20 charge cycles or less) could cause higher impacts than the employment of disposable batteries. 

Additionally, in the same publication it is mentioned: ‘Moreover, for the Ozone depletion, NiMH batteries are hardly environmentally better than alkaline batteries even with 150 recharges.’

And as conclusions and recommendations, the following it is mentioned in the publication: ‘The number of uses of rechargeable batteries plays a key role on their environmental and energy performances. When compared to disposable batteries, a minimum number of 50 charge cycles permits a robust reduction of the potential impacts for all the analyzed indicators excluding the Ozone depletion. Hence, the use of rechargeable batteries should be mostly encouraged for high consumption devices such as cameras, torches, and electronic toys.’

Well, all in all we come back to the same situation. If you are an individual who barely uses batteries, it may actually not be environmentally friendly to buy rechargeable batteries.

If you are an individual who is using many batteries, because you have a hobby that requires many batteries, most probably you will be recharging the batteries 50 or more times within a few months. 

In your case, using rechargeable batteries you would be reducing your personal footprint.

And, similarly, if you have small children at home and the have plenty of toys that do use batteries, from the environmental perspective it makes sense to buy rechargeable batteries.

Conclusion

It seems that the key factor to decide if rechargeable or disposable batteries are more suitable for you, it is the number of times you will be recharging them.

If a rechargeable battery is disposed before going through 50 recharges, the environmental impact is greater than using disposable batteries.

From the money saving perspective, if you are using a significant amounts of batteries per year, it is really worth to consider to swap to rechargeable batteries.

Where to buy a battery charger and some rechargeable batteries

It is up to you but we personally use the most basic and economic battery charger we found in the market. 

If you want to have an idea of the cost range, have a look to the battery chargers in Amazon. Amazon sells some rather economic AAA/AA battery chargers as well as an assorted range of rechargeable batteries.

Have a look, compare the prizes and the reviews and decide which one suits your needs. 

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If you are looking for tips and advice on how to save some electricity, have a look to this video that we have prepared about this very same topic.

All our videos can be found in YouTube, in both English and Spanish languages.

Additionally, if you are looking for energy saving opportunities but you don’t know where to start, use our electricity usage calculators to become aware of your electricity consumption, the electricity costs and the potential savings. 

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