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WNY GOING GREEN: BATTERY USE

Wednesday, 05.04.2011 / 9:38 AM / Blue & Gold Make Green
By Michael Jafari  - Graduate Assistant (2010)
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WNY GOING GREEN: BATTERY USE
The Buffalo Sabres Green Team has touched on the importance of conserving electric energy, but one of its energy replacements can pose a hazard to the environment.

An electrical battery is one or more electrochemical cells (electricity generator) that converts stored chemical energy into electricity.  The first battery was invented by Alessandro Volta in 1800, and it has been very popular in many homes and businesses.  In fact, the popularity of batteries has risen over the years. 

According to batteryuniversity.com, the battery industry generates over $48 billion in sales, and its growth expands over six percent every year.  The website also suggests that with the increase in demand of products like digital cameras, portable gaming systems and computers, the United States is the worldwide leader in battery use. 

The increased use of batteries in the U.S. conserves electricity in American homes, but what makes the battery so effective is what is inside of it.  In 2009, Green Eco Services researched that Americans approximately purchased almost $3 billion dry-cell (electrical) batteries to power items like radios, toys, cell phones, laptops and power tools. 

Dry-Cell are the most common type of batteries, which are made up of electrolytes immobilized as a paste, with only enough moisture in the paste to allow current to flow. The battery is made up of a negative pole (zinc anode) with a positive pole (carbon cathode) to form a central rod.  The rest of the space is made up with ammonium chloride and manganese dioxide. 

Wet-Cell batteries are commonly found in automobiles, boats and motorcycles, and are built with liquid electrolytes to generate electric power.  Some of the main components that make up wet-cell batteries are wet cells, lead and sulfuric acid.   In fact, the common automobile battery contains an average of 18 pounds of lead and one pound of sulfuric acid. 

Although the batteries are somewhat different, they are designed to do the same things, and they both are made with chemicals that are potentially harmful to the environment.  According to Green

Eco Services, an environmental website, regular household batteries can contribute many potentially hazardous compounds to the municipal solid waste stream, including zinc, lead, nickel, alkalines, manganese, cadmium, silver and mercury. Since all of these chemicals are not biodegradable and are not soluble in water, they pose a threat to the overall environment and wildlife.  In addition, the make-up of these batteries are a form of toxic metal pollutants that can also be corrosive and poisonous.

Since batteries have the potential to cause serious environmental damage, there are ways that we can get the same effect with another resource.  Rechargeable batteries are a type of battery that you can re-charge by plugging them into an electrical outlet.  Since the batteries are not being disposed of, you are keeping the batteries out of the environment and still maintaining the same use as an electrical battery.

Another way you can properly handle batteries is by recycling them. The University at Buffalo is one of the few places that will collect your old batteries and re-fill them to be used again.  UB’s mission is to keep the hazardous material out of landfills and make the battery useful again.  The types of batteries they accept include alkaline and Carbon Zinc AAA, AA, C, D and 9-Volt batteries, as well as rechargeable and sealed lead acid batteries.  You can contact UB by calling its battery recycling facility at 716-829-3301 or visiting their website by clicking here.

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