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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Toys Abound, Batteries Needed

Americans buy and throw away billions of batteries each year. (tomblois/Flickr)

Americans buy and throw away billions of batteries each year. (tomblois/Flickr)

If there are Hot Wheels, Furby Booms, or Lionel train sets under the tree this year, you have probably stocked up on batteries to power them.

Americans buy – and throw out – billions of batteries each year.

Philip E. Ross of IEEE Spectrum joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to explain the difference between AA and AAA batteries, and advises when to use rechargeable batteries.


  • Philip E. Ross, senior editor for IEEE Spectrum Magazine.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • sliverson

    misinformation re: “memory effect” of rechargeables

  • sliverson

    Your battery story contained some errors. Your guest claimed that nimh rechargeables need to be fully discharged and recharged occasionally to retain their capacity — the so-called “memory effect.” in fact, the previous generation of rechargeables, the ni-cads, we’re the ones with the memory effect, insofar that it even existed; there’s controversy about that. .Nimh batteries had little to no memory effect. The most remarkable aspect of this issue is the urban mythology that enters into it. Once some people believe in the memory effect, word gets around, and people believe it just because so many people say it. In fact, you can hear employees at Apple stores telling custumers that they should let their iPhone batteries drain completely every so often, despite these batteries being Lithium ion, with no memory effec Crazy.

  • Joe

    I also find your guest to be full of erroneous information. As the other two have pointed out, nickel metal hydride batteries do not have a “memory” effect.

    Also the guest claimed that nickel-cadmium batteries are outlawed due to toxicity, but those batteries are not outlawed(in the U.S.) rather market trends are pushing them to niche areas and the formulation is harder to find in typical consumer sizing, such as AA. Part of the price of buying NiCad batteries does already include a fee for proper disposal and depending on where you live you should dispose of them through government or retail locations.

    Further, the guest claimed that Lithium is non-toxic. This is like saying potassium is non-toxic. Yes we need very small amounts for good health, but never in pure form. Pure lithium is corrosive and will react with water to produce hydroxide. Lithium products are mostly produced in a compound with some other element, and those used in battery making are not low toxicity.

    Doing a little checking of your guest’s background shows little science training and work, and more journalistic work. In my opinion, and that is all it is; editing a scientific journal does not make you a scientist.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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