Disposing of electronics and their batteries has become an environmental concern. With the growing number of cordless mice that use batteries, the increase of more toxic trash being thrown in our landfills is eminent.
Landfills alone are becoming a problem. Americans alone generate trash at an astonishing rate of four pounds per day per person, which translates to 600,000 tons per day or 210 million tons per year! Inside a landfill, there is little oxygen and little moisture, which means trash does not break down very rapidly. In fact, when old landfills have been excavated or sampled, 40-year-old newspapers have been found with easily readable print. Landfills are not designed to break down trash, merely to bury it.. When a landfill closes, the site, especially the groundwater, must be monitored and maintained for up to 30 years!
But this is just regular trash. What about hazardous materials? Each year, Americans throw away 84,000 tons of alkaline batteries. These AA, C and D cells that power electronic toys and games, portable audio equipment and a wide range of other gadgets comprise 20% of the household hazardous materials present around the country in America's landfills.
Sealed inside these alkaline cells are harmful materials, which are not encountered by consumers during normal use. However, when the batteries enter a landfill, the casings can be crushed, or can easily degrade, which causes mercury and other toxins to leach into the environment.
While the chemicals contained in alkaline batteries do not pose nearly as large of a threat to the environment and public safety as other types, they are still a problem. The potassium hydroxide contained in the batteries can cause severe chemical burns if exposed to skin or mucus membranes.
Additionally, groundwater contamination can occur once the chemicals leak out of the batteries and eventually percolate through cracks in the landfill.
Alkaline batteries cannot be recycled, but they can still be disposed of properly through special containers that hold only other alkaline batteries and are thus less likely to break open and leach into the ground.
The other types of batteries, even though they make up less than one percent of municipal solid waste (MSW), are a much larger problem. Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad), Lead-acid, Lithium-Ion, and any other type of battery that is not alkaline are very toxic to humans and to the environment. NiCad batteries are responsible for more than 75 percent of cadmium found in MSW.
Lead is a major contaminant of groundwater, and poses significant risks to human health such as brain damage.
In 1996 Congress passed the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act, which removed all barriers to facilitating a comprehensive recycling program for these batteries.
The problem of batteries in landfills is one of the easiest to solve. Using items that do not require batteries or at least rechargeable power can significantly reduce the number of batteries that end up in landfills.
There are a number of manufacturers in the country today who deal with products that do not require batteries, including mice. In buying a battery free mouse, you alone can save the environment from up to 300 throwaway batteries and the plastic materials that are used to package them.
Where there is a will there is a way to leave a greener path or reduced carbon footprint. Going battery free when possible is one great way to start.