Lithium-ion (Li-ion) and Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries are very eco-friendly batteries versus other type of batteries ranging from alkaline and popular Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd) batteries.

A Li-ion and NiMH battery does not contain materials and chemicals that are dangerous and toxic to our environment. Alkaline batteries are disposable and a majority of them end up in landfills. Li-ion, NiMH, and NiCd are all rechargeable batteries and get recharged many times over before they are disposed. This makes rechargeable batteries a more environmentally friendly consumer choice. However, what is the difference between all of these batteries?

NiCd stands for nickel-cadmium and is considered highly toxic due to the battery chemistry and composition. NiCd batteries are one of the most popular rechargeable batteries today due to its early introduction in the 1980s and 1990s. The chemicals in NiCd batteries are very poisonous. Cadmium fumes can be highly poisonous and deadly if water supplies and environments are exposed. Another downside of NiCd is the “memory effect” which can cause recharging issues and short battery lifespan. A new replacement of the NiCd can be seen in NiMH and Li-ion batteries.   

NiMH is known as a nickel-metal hydride cell battery and is very similar to a NiCd battery. The NiMH battery is the least toxic battery and most environmentally friendly if it were to not get recycled properly. NiMH batteries have 2-3 times the capacity of a NiCd, but less capacity than a Li-ion. NiMH batteries are also used in hybrids cars today.

Li-ion, also known as lithium-ion and LIB are a rechargeable battery that has the highest capacity of the four and doesn’t quickly discharge while sitting on the shelf. Li-ion batteries are the least toxic, but also depends what type of material is used with them. For example, if cobalt is used with Lithium-ion batteries then Li-ion batteries would be considered toxic waste and would have to be recycled..

Alkaline batteries are your generic disposable batteries that are not rechargeable. Although alkaline batteries do have a high capacity and long shelf life, they are disposed of once their power is used up. From 1993, alkaline and carbon zinc batteries that were domestically made contain no added mercury and are essentially mercury-free. This makes alkaline batteries safe to dispose in the garbage. However, the millions of alkaline batteries ending up in our landfills are growing. It is advisable to recycle these batteries as well to reduce the amount of chemicals and battery waste we bury in our landfills.

If we were to throw lead batteries in the mix, this is the most toxic type of battery. Nickel based batteries are the second most toxic battery. Lithium based batteries would be the least toxic rechargeable type of battery. Alkaline batteries don’t have highly toxic materials and make it the least toxic overall in this group.

Environmental toxicity is seen in this order: Lead Batteries, NiCd, NiMH, Li-ion, then alkaline batteries.

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