Reusable Batteries vs. Disposable: It’s No Contest

It's almost that time of year again. Yes, almost, (you hear that neighbor down the street with all your holiday lights on already), I said almost.


Almost that time for twinkling lights, decorating, shopping, entertaining, gift giving…and batteries…lots and lots of batteries.


This year, make the switch to reusable batteries and save money and resources. Less money. Less waste.


Reusable batteries do cost more initially, but more than make up for their initial cost in the longer term.


And reusable batteries have come a long way since they entered the market in 1992. Today's batteries hold a charge longer, can recharge more times, and cost less than earlier versions.


I've tried many types of reusable batteries in the last fifteen years or so, and for sure the best one I've found is Sanyo's eneloop rechargeable.


The reason I love these so much (which has nothing to do with getting anything free from eneloop – I purchased these batteries for full price at Costco a few years ago) is that they come pre-charged, so you can use them right out of the package.


And not only that, but once you use them and recharge them at home, they hold a charge. In fact, if they start fully charged, they will still be at 75% capacity after three years. So you can keep some extra fully-charged batteries stored in a drawer and just replace your used batteries immediately, with no down time for recharging.


With eneloop batteries I can use reusable batteries for virtually everything in my home, including mouse and keyboard batteries, remote batteries – all those devices that we may not want to have any break in battery use for recharging.
And Sanyo just announced a new and improved version of eneloop that is in stores now.


Far and away, the best prices for Sanyo eneloop that I have found is at Costco. When you can find it, they have an eneloop kit that comes with 8 AA, 4 AAA batteries, the C and D converters, a charger and a holding case for about $27). It's a bargain and it looks like this:

However, I just went down my local store and they don't have this kit right now. But they do have a 10-pack of AA eneloop batteries for $19.99. In addition to those batteries, you will need an eneloop charger. I found one at reusit.com for $22.95.


So for comparison purposes, I'll use the example of the 10-pack of eneloop at Costco and charger found online versus a 48 pack of AA Kirkland Signature batteries I also saw at Costco today.


The total cost of the charger and batteries is $42.98 for 10 AA batteries. Initially, $4.29 per battery seems like a lot. First, keep in mind that you only have to buy the charger once. All batteries after that don't need to have that cost built in.


Also consider that each eneloop battery can be charged 1000-1500 times and the math really changes. Even when you factor in utility costs for recharging the battery each time, Sanyo estimates a cost under $.04 per charge. I did my own calculations and came up with $.024 per charge, but we will go with the higher number.


Compare that to disposable batteries. The Costco 48 pack at $11.99 (pretty much the least expensive batteries found anywhere), works out to be about $.25 per battery in the pack. But at a one-time use, that's $.25 per use.


So while initially, disposable batteries cost less, in the long run, reusable batteries are just a fraction of the cost. It's no contest really – $.25 per use for one-time use batteries versus $.04 for the reusables.


And, that doesn't even factor in the cost of battery manufacturing and distribution and the hassle of battery disposal. Remember, all batteries are considered hazardous waste. So they can not be placed in the regular trash can. You must take them to a hazardous waste facility.
At 1000 uses per reusable eneloop battery, that's 999 fewer batteries to manufacture, package, distribute and dispose of. Reusable batteries are the clear winner here as well.


Unfortunately, only a small fraction of consumers choose reusable batteries. With the cost savings and all the resource savings, I really can not understand why.


So this year, as you purchase those video games, portable devices, and annoying beeping, light-up, talking toys, load up on reusable batteries as well.


Give a gift to yourself with money back in your pocket and give a gift to the environment with fewer batteries manufactured, packaged, sold and eventually disposed of in the hazardous waste facility.

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