A handful of Whole Foods grocery stores in Portland and Seattle are adding a new kind of vending machine to their stores this week. The machines are stocked with rechargeable batteries that customers can buy in packs of four and return when they’re spent.
Portland-based Bettery has designed the machines to take back used AA and AAA batteries and dispense freshly recharged replacements.
The idea, according to Bettery CEO Charles Kawasaki, is to make using rechargeable batteries as easy as using their single-use counterparts.
“You can reuse them up to 500 times, and that’s what Bettery does,” he said. “We reuse them over and over, so that a single battery takes the place of hundreds of batteries that would otherwise have gone into the landfill.”
Kawasaki said people only reuse rechargeable batteries six times on average – if they buy them at all – and he hopes his machines will change that.
“There’s hassles with buying a recharger up front,” he said. “They’re expensive, and they never seem to be ready when you want them.”
Bettery’s battery packs cost $10 a four-pack for the first purchase and $2.50 a pack thereafter.
“Swap them for recharged batteries three or four times and you’re saving money,” Kawasaki said.
Kawasaki said the company was born after he himself got fed up with spending money on batteries that piled up in his house and forced him to consider the environmental impact of throwing them away.
“It didn’t feel right to throw them away,” he said. “It didn’t seem like the responsible thing to do for the environment.”
When his daughter’s babysitter introduced him to Redbox, the video rental vending machines stationed in some grocery stores, he saw a possible solution.
“I thought, ‘Bingo,’” he said. “Why can’t we build a Redbox for rechargeable batteries and help consumers reduce the 2.5 billion batteries going into landfills every year?”
The first Bettery Machines are being installed this week in the Whole Foods stores in Portland’s Pearl and Hollywood districts, the Mill Plain store in Vancouver, Wash. and Seattle’s Lynnwood and Roosevelt Square stores. The stores will hold battery recycling events on Saturday, April 13. Bettery machines will also collect used alkaline batteries for recycling through Total Reclaim.