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Disposable power banks: The world’s worst stocking filler?

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Here’s why you shouldn’t be tempted to this shocking addition to disposable culture

In the long and not particularly distinguished history of terrible Christmas gifts there has rarely been a product so pointless and environmentally damaging as the disposable phone charger.

That’s the professional opinion of a British waste and recycling company which is equally alarmed and disappointed at finding these use-once-then-bin devices are still on sale as impulse purchases on supermarket tills.

According to UK based BusinessWaste.co.uk, disposable power banks are another symptom of the disposable culture in which we’re living.

“We’re shouting from the rooftops to try to get people to stop being wasteful,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “And then these things come along literally encouraging people to think short term. What’s going on?”

Everybody needs to charge their phone, right?

Available for as little as three pounds, the disposable phone chargers come with sufficient power to recharge most mobile devices.

They look the ideal Secret Santa gift or stocking filler for somebody who is always looking for somewhere to charge their mobile phone.

And who doesn’t need an emergency hit of power when the “battery low” alert comes on when you’re in the middle of an important WhatsApp conversation? We all do, so we hunt around for a friendly power socket or charger to get that battery percentage back into the green.

And there, on the supermarket till, it’s winking at you: Three quid, directly into the charging port. Oh yeah.

But they come with a hidden cost: Each one comes with a lithium battery inside.

A lithium battery that is used once and then thrown away.

“Lithium batteries are rechargeable,” says Mark Hall, “which makes it even worse”.

And as only a fraction of the UK’s electronic waste is recycled, you can lay very good odds that thousands of these devices end up in landfill alongside the other 50 million tonnes of this country’s e-waste.

“They’ve been around for a couple of years now, and we’re dismayed that you can still get them from major retailers,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk’s Mark Hall. “And they’re available on online tat market Ebay for pennies, too.”

Literally for a few pounds extra, you can buy a reusable power bank, which – with a little love – can give you hundreds of uses before it goes to the big recycling centre in the sky (via your local council small electricals bin).

You just want to rob us of our right to 100% battery, then?

Nothing of the sort. With a little bit of what people call “getting your life in order”, you need never have a flat phone battery.

• Get a multi-use recharger. They are dirt cheap, are available everywhere, and last for ages. The perfect Secret Santa gift or stocking filler.
• Carry a plug and charging lead. There are plugs everywhere these days. Coffee shops are falling over themselves to give you somewhere to get that sweet, sweet electricity while you enjoy an Americano and a cake.
• See also buses, trains, burger bars, pubs, hotels. They all want your custom and the charging point is the new customer loyalty gimmick.
• Use your phone less. No, really. You can do it. Be brave.
The message is simple, says Mark Hall of BusinessWaste.co.uk. “The planet doesn’t need thousands of single-use batteries dumped in holes in the ground.

“We care about the environment, and the damage that we’re doing to it through single-use plastics and electronics is a disaster.
“Don’t give these useless devices as presents.”

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