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Green IT: Cell Phones & Battery Operated Devices

Last updated December 9, 2016

Proper disposal is important

Keeping cell phones and other portable electronics charged is important. Unfortunately, leaving them plugged in and charging all day or all night can have a detrimental effect on both the device and the environment. Below are some tips on battery use and disposal.

Lithium ion batteries and chargers

  • Do not overcharge your batteries. Many cell phone batteries can fully recharge in an hour or so. Plugging in your phone overnight or all day can add wear and tear on your battery and will waste a lot of electricity too.
  • To maintain battery performance, partially discharge the device and recharge when it is getting low. Being on a trickle charge isn’t good for a cell phone, laptop, or most other items that use lithium ion batteries. It can decondition them and cause corrosion within the battery.
  • Unplug power adapters when they are not in use. Power adapters use lots of electricity even when they aren’t actively charging a device. It is estimated that 50%-90% of electricity consumed by battery chargers is unnecessary and wasted, mostly as heat. A SmartStrip can help this.
  • Recycle your old cell phone by donating to an organization like ReCellular or Call2Recycle. Make sure that you wipe it clean of all of your personal data before recycling.

Use rechargeable batteries

  • Use rechargeable instead of disposable batteries. Disposable alkaline batteries can take a lot more energy to produce than they provide. According to a Cambridge study, consumer batteries take about 50 times more energy to produce than they supply. It is true that rechargeable batteries don’t retain their charge forever. However, their environmental impact is about 1/32 that of a disposable battery.
  • Reduce the environment's exposure to toxins. All batteries are made out of toxic materials. Using rechargeable batteries whenever possible can reduce the amount of lead, mercury, and other heavy metals from leaking into the water supply.
  • Save money by using rechargeable. Rechargeable batteries are dramatically cheaper to operate over the long term than disposable ones, as they are much cheaper to recharge than buying new batteries.
  • Dispose of all batteries properly. Rechargeable batteries can be recycled through Penn's Office of Environmental Health and Radiation Safety or Call2Recycle, Inc.'s Call2Recycle program, which has many local drop off locations.

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