On The Road to Berlin (Part 4)
In a prior blog, I wrote about what I’m packing, and what I’m trying to leave home.
Here’s the picture again, for further discussion. Previously, I was talking about weight, as in, how much mass am I going to need to load onto the luggage check, the overhead compartment, etc. Now the question is, how much battery power am I carrying. For an environmental impact, how much resources am I consuming?
Batteries in my gear
- watch (I mention this because mine stopped on the way to Nashville)
- phone (3.7 v Li-ion polymer – standard battery 30 grams; extended 40g)
- laptop (330 gram standard Li-ion battery; extended battery probably 500 g)
- camera (2 AAs)
- mp3 player/recorder (2 AAs)
- flashlight (2 AAs)
- alarm clock (1 AAA)
- noise canceling headphones (1 AAA)
The watch battery isn’t rechargeable, though I looked at solar-powered and self-winding models that last time my battery died. I’m now using a watch that someone else at work gave me (parts of) and bought another battery for that.
The phone uses an AC charger (left middle of picture), although it has a USB cable that can only be used for data.
The laptop uses a huge transformer (not pictured). I had a smaller one, but the cable near the tip started fraying and I decided that electrical tape wasn’t a viable solution. The replacement is heavier, not to mention that the tip isn’t sized quite right and tends to slide out too easily.
I had a rather hefty NiMH battery recharger, but just got a new model that is both smaller and lighter – was 400 grams, now 110. You can see the bag of extra AAs and AAAs on the right of the picture.
According to a U.S. Office of Technology Assessment 1989 report titled “Facing America’s Trash: What Next for Municipal Solid Waste,” 2 billion batteries of all shapes and sizes are sold in the U.S. per year (that may only be 10 per person, but still). I had been buying larger and larger packs of AA and AAA batteries at super-stores until common sense finally kicked in. What was going to happen to all of those batteries when they died? Once I succumbed to using a digital camera, I found a pair of batteries would last barely a day or 2 if I was taking a lot of shots.
I collect batteries wherever I see them, mainly on streets and parking lots. I try to find places to recycle them, but it’s tough to know where they belong. The above cited report has a sobering assessment of the state of the art, even if it is nearly 20 years ago – not that much has changed, for both lead-acid car batteries, and the ubiquitous consumer batteries.
In college, for an engineering class, I visited a copper refining facility near Baltimore City. While working for Maryland State, I inspected similar manufacturing sites, including a manganese plant (a component of batteries and other products), a steel mill, chemical waste processing facilities, and municipal solid waste incinerators (generators of mercury and other toxics when metals such as batteries are heated). There’s a lot to think about out there.
Google “battery hike” to see some of my finds.
There’s a burgeoning Tips for First Time TechEd-er wiki page on the SAP site. One of my tips was to take rechargeable, not disposable batteries. I plan to haul my new charger around, so if you bring batteries but forget the charger, look me up.
As for Lithium Ion batteries, there is a travel advisory – don’t quote me but the advice is, carry them on, don’t check them. If you recall what I said above, both my laptop and my cell phone use this technology. Try the page http://www.prba.org/Laws_and_Regulations/Default.ashx or http://SafeTravel.dot.gov for more insight.
I work at a place that makes consumer products that may include rechargeable batteries. While I’m a little familiar with the chemistry, metallurgy, physics and engineering behind some of these products, I’m relating views of my personal life, not anything to do with where I work. If you do a little research, you can find more about the Portable Rechargeable Battery Association, and the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation.