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Save the environment through recharging

Choose rechargeable batteries and reduce the burden on the environment. Anton Helgstrand, from the Department of Environmental Technology and Management (IEI), has studied the life of batteries from the cradle to the grave.

Anton Helgstrand

In Sweden alone, 55 million alkali single-use AA batteries were purchased during 2009. If we’d chosen rechargeable batteries instead and charged them a hundred times, we’d have reduced emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents by 6700 tonnes. It’s a sizeable amount, corresponding to 925 trips around the world in a car.

After ten charges, rechargeable batteries cause 62% less emissions than single-use batteries with the same energy capacity.
Even as few as four recharges yields a benefit to the climate, compared with using four alkali single-use batteries with the same amount of energy.

These facts come from a life-cycle analysis conducted by Anton Helgstrand, life-cycle analysis expert at the Department of Environmental Technology and Management. The analysis was commissioned by battery manufacturer GPBM Nordic AB.

Helgstrand also studied and compared where the two types of batteries come from. Those being normal alkali single-use batteries and rechargeable nickel/metal hydride AA batteries (the slightly larger variant of small dry cell batteries).

Is there any reason to believe that similar types of batteries from another manufacturer would yield another result?
“I really can’t say anything about that, but it is likely we’d get a similar result if we compare them under the same conditions,” Helgstrand explains.

In a life-cycle analysis, he takes the environmental burden of the entire life cycle of a product into account, from the extraction of raw materials through manufacture and transport to use, and finally waste management.

“Usage is the most difficult aspect to estimate as there aren’t any really good studies to refer to. Nor have we compared the metals in the two types. In both cases we assumed that 30% of the material is recycled, 40% incinerated, and 30% dumped.”

Helgstrand also argues in the study that there should be some form of environmental labelling on rechargeable batteries.

“A clear label, like the Nordic eco-label, Svanen, would certainly increase the use of rechargeable batteries, thereby reducing the impact on the environment,” he says.

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