Dear Omar

Can You Throw AA Batteries in the Trash? And Other Battery Mysteries, Solved

Take my dead batteries… please

Omar L. Gallaga
Debugger
Published in
6 min readJan 5, 2021

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Photo: Danilo Alvesd/Unsplash

It’s a nightmare where I’m drowning in a sea of dead and dying batteries. I am adrift in a pile of Duracells and Energizers and Evereadys and Rayovacs and Panasonics (do they still make those?), roiling together as a vast metallic sea. The batteries are old and corroding, and I fear that their ranks will keep growing and the acid will melt me, so I swim against the D and C and AA and AAA cells, trying to call to the mainland, warning them that ruin is coming to their shores.

Nobody listens, and when I wake up, my house is still full of these stupid dead batteries I’m too afraid to throw away. They fill kitchen drawers and lie bloated in old toys, tucked into plastic baggies meant for a recycling center that doesn’t seem to want them.

Like these batteries, I’m drained just thinking about it.

In a perfectly neat future world, one designed by Apple probably, all electronics would have discreet, hidden batteries that recharged for a while and eventually, when worn down, would be discarded with the device they powered, having expired at exactly the same time.

But we’re always one foot dragging behind with a toehold 10 or 15 years back, so we still use these packaged metal fuel cells to bring to life kids’ toys on Christmas Eve, to keep the Sunday football game action going with that “volume up” button on the remote, to power hearing aids and decorative fairy lights and sex toys and big flashlights and instant cameras.

These kinds of batteries, commonly called “alkaline,” are known as “primary” batteries in the electronics industry, as opposed to lead batteries (like the big ones in most cars and boats), lithium-ion batteries (laptops, cellphones), and various other types of rechargeable batteries using materials like nickel and cadmium.

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Omar L. Gallaga
Debugger

Tech culture writer and podcaster, now freelancing in Texas. Bylines: Washington Post, WSJ, CNN, NPR, Wired, Texas Monthly. Here for all your wordy needs.