Which dollar-store batteries stand up to big-name brands, and which should you avoid? | CBC News

And CBC Market test of dual-A disposable batteries found that while major brands deliver their marketing promises to be long-lasting, batteries purchased in two leading dollar stores performed surprisingly well and provide good value for cost-conscious shoppers.

But the test also found that not all dollar store batteries are created equal and some types of batteries did not work well, with experts warning that they should be avoided despite their low cost.

  • See the entire Marketplace survey on Friday at 20.00 at CBC and CBC Gem.

Market, together with researchers from Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, Ont., tested 240 dual-A disposable batteries from six brands. The brands tested were Energizer, Duracell, Canadian Tire’s Noma, Walmart’s Great Value, E-Circuit from Dollar Tree, and Panasonic batteries from both Dollarama and Dollar Tree.

In the tests, which simulated different energy drainage levels, Energizer and Duracell held the longest. But it was E-Circuit alkaline, a brand imported by and sold on Dollar Tree, that stuck with the more well-known brands, lasted almost as long and cost only $ 1.25 for a package of four.

The researchers used the different sewer scenarios – low, medium and high – to simulate real uses. They said the low-level drain is similar to the continuous use of a computer mouse or TV remote control. Medium drain is similar to continuous use of a remote-controlled toy or game controller, while high drain is like a powerful flashlight.


Ontario Tech Technical Assistant Professor Xianke Lin, who oversaw the test, noted that the results, while surprising, should not be used as a proxy for all battery performance because the test cannot perfectly simulate how batteries are used in real life.

Still, the value of the e-circuit comes into focus when comparing price per battery and capacity. Based on what Market paid, the average price per alkaline battery for e-circuits was only 31 cents.

“Usually people think it’s cheap and should not have the best value, though [E-Circuit alkaline] turns out to be the best capacity per dollar you spend, says Lin, from Ontario Tech’s Faculty of Technology and Applied Science.

E-Circuit’s ultra-alkaline battery performed even longer overall, albeit at a higher price.

Panasonic’s Alkaline Plus batteries purchased from Dollarama and Dollar Tree also performed well in all three simulated drainage tests.

Assistant Professor Xianke Lin from Ontario Tech University holds up two of the cells tested. (Steven D’Souza / CBC)

Batteries to avoid

While alkaline batteries in the dollar store offered surprises, another type sold in these stores, carbon zinc (or zinc carbon) did not do well in the tests.

These carbon zinc dual-A batteries are recommended for devices with low drainage and are a common feature in dollar stores. In a test that simulates the continuous use of low-drainage devices, the E-Circuit and Panasonic carbon zinc batteries lasted six hours and 55 minutes and seven hours and 45 minutes, respectively, while the alkalis of the other brands lasted more than 20 hours.


Although the E-Circuit and Panasonic carbon zinc were branded as “Super Heavy Duty”, they were anything but, according to experts.

“It’s incredibly confusing,” according to Columbia University engineering professor Dan Steingart, who studies the capacity and energy efficiency of disposable batteries.

The jargon around that term goes back to the seventies and it worked. I remember my grandfather saying, ‘You know, make sure you buy the super heavy one as opposed to the light one, right? It significantly affected an entire generation of battery consumers. “

There is no reason to sell a zinc carbon system in 2022.– Dan Steinart, Columbia University

Also known as dry cells, “super heavy duty” carbon zinc batteries are based on a dated technology from 19th centuryand is commonly marketed as a cost-effective alternative for use in low-drainage devices such as TV remote controls or wall-mounted clocks.

Steinart, who has run similar tests Markets, said: “I could not find a single use case where the zinc carbon in any way exceeded the alkaline cells … There is no reason to sell a zinc carbon system in 2022.”

Although the batteries are only recommended for certain devices that do not require much power, many Canadians said Market they do not notice the suggestions on the battery packs.

Given their likely use in other devices, the researchers also tested the carbon-zinc batteries in the simulated high-drainage tests.

Ontario Tech University researcher Jonathan Couture with a Panasonic carbon zinc dual-A battery that performed poorly in the tests. The company recommends them for devices with low drainage. (Steven D’Souza / CBC)

The Panasonic and E-Circuit carbon zinc batteries lasted just under seven minutes under high draft conditions, while all alkaline batteries lasted for about an hour.

“Zinc carbon cells are largely decommissioned and should no longer be manufactured or sold,” Steingart said.

Experts said the key is to look for alkaline batteries in dollar stores and avoid cheaper carbon zinc batteries.

Panasonic told me Market Its carbon zinc batteries can last for up to a year in low-drainage appliances and it works with stores to educate consumers about their uses.

“Coal-zinc batteries are an established technology and when used properly in recommended devices, they provide amazing performance and value,” Panasonic said in a statement, saying consumers should be aware that different batteries are better suited for certain devices.

Dollar Tree, the importer of E-Circuit batteries, did not answer questions about the carbon zinc batteries, but acknowledged that they are sold and that their products generally suit customers’ low-cost needs.

Dollarama, which together with Dollar Tree carries Panasonic carbon zinc batteries, says they offer “a selection of Panasonic carbon zinc and alkaline battery packs to our customers, giving them access to a range of options at our low fixed price levels, depending on their needs.”

Consumers help pay to recycle battery waste – where does it go?

Dual-A batteries are among the most used – and discarded – in Canadian households. According to Call2Recycle, the non-profit organization that handles this type of waste, Canadians recycled 4.1 million kilos of batteries by 2020.

Consumers pay an environmental fee – sometimes called an environmental management fee (EHF) – for batteries purchased in Ontario, Manitoba, BC, Quebec and Saskatchewan. Although environmental charges to cover the cost of electronic waste are levied on electronic products and televisions purchased in most Canadian provinces, but not all the provinces have environmental taxes on batteries specifically.

In Ontario, battery manufacturers and retailers are now responsible for recycling their used batteries, and this consumer charge may be added at checkout to allow companies to cover their own recycling costs.

Market paid about five cents per battery for environmental charges in Ontario and $ 2.40 for a 48-cell package.

Most household batteries in Ontario used to end up in Ontario’s largest battery recycling facility, Raw Materials Company (RMC), in Welland, Ont.

Alkaline batteries purchased from Dollarama and Dollar Tree performed well in the tests conducted for Marketplace. (Steven D’Souza / CBC)

In all cases, Market has discovered that dead batteries collected for disposal in Ontario are no longer sent there.

Joe Zenobio, president of Call2Recycle, Canada’s largest battery collector and recycling company, wrote that the group has terminated certain non-compliance agreements “related to the collection of qualified batteries” in Ontario.

RMC told Market it has never been notified of rule violations during its 35 years in operation and is fighting against Call2Recycle’s decision.

The Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA), the regulatory authority for Ontario’s circular economy laws, confirmed in an email that Call2Recycle has told the agency that it intends to ship batteries to Michigan. Call2Recycle told Market It works with recycling companies in Michigan, as well as Quebec, but does not want to say how many batteries go where or when.

Consumers are not required to pay environmental taxes

Jo-Anne St. Godard, head of the Circular Innovation Council, formerly the Recycling Council of Ontario and now a national advocacy group, said it is not ideal to send dead batteries out of the country for recycling. Although it is difficult to measure transport emissions against the recycling benefits, she would prefer to see support for both local recycling solutions and the local economy.

St. Godard said Ontario’s environmental taxes are not a tax and consumers are not required to pay them.

“I think [consumers] “they have to ask questions at the point of sale when they see these fees applied and they really have to ask the government questions about where this money is going, how this money is being handled,” she said.

Phillip Robinson, press secretary for the province’s environment minister David Piccini, said in an email: including protecting consumers from false, misleading or misleading charges relating to charges. “

The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services said in an email that it is up to each company to decide whether to charge environmental taxes on batteries or electronics and decide what amount the fee should be to get back their recycling costs, and a company can not give an incorrect picture of the purpose. of a fee.

Consumers who believe that the purpose of a charge is incorrectly stated should report it to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services at 416-326-8800 or toll free at 1-800-889-9768, while consumers who are concerned about the measures taken by a company to Recycling batteries should contact the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA) at 416-226-5113 or info@rpra.ca.

No matter what happens behind the scenes in the industry, St. Godard that consumers should continue to dispose of battery waste at collection landfills, but should consider pressuring the government for answers on where waste and environmental charges go.

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