Environment

earthCell batteries promise near-zero waste and better value

earthCell batteries promise ne...
earthCell batteries are designed to be used like disposables, except that users send them away for recharging or recycling when they're used up
earthCell batteries are designed to be used like disposables, except that users send them away for recharging or recycling when they're used up
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earthCell batteries are designed to be used like disposables, except that users send them away for recharging or recycling when they're used up
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earthCell batteries are designed to be used like disposables, except that users send them away for recharging or recycling when they're used up
earthCell batteries are designed to be used like disposables, except that users send them away for recharging or recycling when they're used up
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earthCell batteries are designed to be used like disposables, except that users send them away for recharging or recycling when they're used up

If you really want to minimize the amount of toxins that you put into the environment, use rechargeable batteries. Disposable and rechargeable batteries can contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, and with an estimated 3 billion batteries a year being discarded in the U.S. alone, the sometimes small amounts in each battery can really add up. Using rechargeables greatly reduces the number of batteries entering landfills, but many people don't bother buying them, or the chargers that they require. That's where earthCell batteries come in. They can be used like disposables, except that users send them away for for recharging or recycling when they're dead.

earthCells are low self-discharge nickel metal hydride (LSD NiMH) batteries, which among other things are claimed to have a much longer shelf life than regular NiMH batteries, and longer run times than alkalines. When a customer's earthCells do expire, they put them in a prepaid mailer. Once that mailer is full, the customer sends it off to the company.

Staff at earthCell will test each used battery that arrives. If it's up to snuff, it will be "revitalized," then resold - each battery can reportedly be recharged hundreds of times. If the battery is just too used up, it will be dismantled, so that its materials can be used to create new batteries.

"Our batteries are essentially rechargeable batteries," earthCell founder Jason Rugolo told us. "They can be recharged at home in LSD NiMH chargers. Our understanding is that the vast majority of people out there don't want to manage their battery stock, perhaps because batteries are an insignificant part of peoples' lives."

earthCell batteries are designed to be used like disposables, except that users send them away for recharging or recycling when they're used up
earthCell batteries are designed to be used like disposables, except that users send them away for recharging or recycling when they're used up

Rugolo is presently in the process of raising funds for his business, on Kickstarter. A pledge of US$13 will get you four AA and four AAA earthCell batteries, along with a mailer. Higher amounts will get you more, with pledges of $45 or over paying off in 10 AA's and ten AAA's.

Projected retail prices for the batteries haven't been announced yet, although Jason has stated that they will be a much better value than disposables. So far, earthCells will only be available within the U.S.

The pitch video below includes some more details.

18 comments
Denis Klanac
yeah uhmm, good luck with that one!
Gadgeteer
Doesn\'t all the fuel used in shipping the batteries to and fro wipe out the \"green\" benefits?
The Flying Crowbar
So packing the batteries away for mail, remembering to mail them, so they can be shipped around the country for someone else to recharge them; then wait for someone recharge them and to do the same process and wait for them to arrive.
Might be useful for someone who doesn\'t have electricty or access to the sun for a solar charger...
DaveWesely
So... the target market is people who are too lazy or lack the time to slap their batteries in a charger. But those same people will be motivated and find the time to keep the battery mailer around until the batteries die, then seal them up in the mailer and shlep them to the mailbox. Sorry, I don\'t think so.
Dcow3764
I\'m having a hard time wrapping my brain around this. I agree that all of the batteries in the landfill is really bad for the environment. However, the concept to mail dead batteries away to be recharged doesn\'t make sence to me. The extra cost in shipping, handling and vehicle fuel would, to me, outweigh the need for this method. As consumers we do not have the paitince to wait for fully charged batteries. Also, the time used to track down two AA batteries that got lost in the mail would be a waste of my time to bother with. How about a biodegradable battery or market solar recharge kit. But this.....
Jason Rugolo
Hi Guys. I hope you see the upside of what we\'re trying to do here. Many people have opted to recharge their own batteries, and that\'s great. But the vast majority of the market doesn\'t after 30 years of opportunity to do so, which puts us in the position we are today with 3 billion batteries per year ending up in landfills.
Our batteries are cost-competitive with alkalines, including the prepaid mailer to recycle them. That\'s a huge win for customers who don\'t recharge their own batteries, and an even bigger win for the fight to eliminate battery waste.
As for the environmental costs of shipping, it\'s an important point. What is relevant is the marginal environmental cost per weight of USPS shipping, since the postal employee is coming to your house anyways. This happens to be very small.
That cost has to be compared with the way you buy batteries. For example, hopping in your Prius to grab 4 AAs at the last minute has a vastly larger footprint. Grabbing some AAs at the store with the rest of your groceries in your Humvee has a larger footprint. If you walk to the corner store, however, then the mail delivery would have a somewhat larger footprint.
Ultimately, given the choice between making the mailman\'s bag a bit heavier, or landfilling billions of batteries every year, I\'d make the bag heavier every time.
Sincerely, Jason Rugolo earthCell founder
Kim Smed
I am pretty sure the idea is similar to the blue rhino propane tanks (except with shipping). You buy re-charged batteries (from a yet to be named source) and mail your dead ones off. The dead ones will be recharged then sent to a distributor (where we will buy them). Basically we are buying used batteries at a premium in order to ensure we are being greener than people who just throw away their batteries. I am pretty sure the business model sucks but I have seen people do significantly more environmental harm in trying to be green so maybe this will fly with the people who fall for the green term without looking to see if it is bunk or not.
Wombat56
A prepaid mailer for safe disposal of truly dead batteries would be welcome.
It says at the end of the article that these cells can also be charged at home as usual for rechargeable batteries.
Ed
Ha! Reading all the above comments, there is nothing I can do but completely agree with *ALL* of them! LOL! Who would do this? I know I wouldn\'t! In fact, the only thing keeping me from throwing away rechargeables instead of tossing them when they are spent is that they cost more than disposables! If they were the same price as disposables, I\'ld toss them as well and get fresh batteries!
Will, the tink
I also am doubtful that this business idea will work. A person is either conscientious about their use of batteries or they are not. If you only buy disposable batteries (which I do not recommend) then you need to keep a pail for the dead ones and make sure they go to hazmat instead of getting buried with rest of garbage. I personally buy rechargables and have in place a battery recharge/maintenance routine to fill our needs. If you are conscientious about this problem, you need to invest the small amount of time it takes to do it. Using rechargeables then mailing them off does not take less time. It just adds to the complexity and uses even more resources!