Harmful Chemicals

Using Rechargeable Batteries on Broadway

This post comes to you from the Broadway Green Alliance
by John Curvan and Danielle Heckman

Backstage at BILLY ELLIOT on Broadway.

Backstage at BILLY ELLIOT on Broadway.

As of October 2008, the Broadway company of WICKED switched from using regular alkaline batteries to nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeables in all of their wireless microphones.  They alternate between two sets of rechargeables to allow sufficient time for recharging.  These two sets of rechargeables generally last for ten months.

There are many ‘green’ benefits from using these batteries. With the old alkaline batteries, they used 38 AA’s per show. This resulted in 15,808 used batteries per year.  Now they only need to dispose of 96 NiMH batteries each year.  This will reduce, over the next five years, 78,560 batteries from entering the waste stream.  That works out to 3,959 lbs of solid waste – just a bit less than two tons!

The new batteries are also mercury-free, cadmium-free and lead-free.  They are in compliance with the European Union’s stricter RoHS standard (the Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment).

The last green benefit is money.  They pay 29¢ for each alkaline AA battery.  That works out to $4,742 every year. The NiMH batteries are $2.65 per cell, and require five rechargers for $66.97 each.  Rechargeables cost $589.25 the first year and $254.40 each subsequent (each year they need new cells but not new chargers); this will save $22,103.15 over five years.

Julie’s Bicycle reports that rechargeable batteries have 32 times less impact on the environment (global warming, air & water pollution) than disposable batteries throughout their lifecycle, and that one rechargeable can replace 93 disposables.  The end result, of course, is that finite natural resources are reused, and the release of harmful chemicals (such as lead, mercury and cadmium) from improper disposal is prevented.

Add up the benefits – reliability, cost savings, greener profiles, and less pollution and waste – and it’s easy to see why better batteries is one of the wisest sustainability choices a production can make – and why theatres from as far away as Australia are reaching out to the BGA for information about how they too can go greener.

For more information, please look at our website BroadwayGreen.com, or email green@broadway.org with specific questions.

Broadway Shows Using Rechargable Batteries: 

The Broadway Green Alliance was founded in 2008 in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council. The Broadway Green Alliance (BGA) is an ad hoc committee of The Broadway League and a fiscal program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. Along with Julie’s Bicycle in the UK, the BGA is a founding member of the International Green Theatre Alliance. The BGA has reached tens of thousands of fans through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other media.

At the BGA, we recognize that it is impossible to be 100% “green” while continuing activity and – as there is no litmus test for green activity – we ask instead that our members commit to being greener and doing better each day. As climate change does not result from one large negative action, but rather from the cumulative effect of billions of small actions, progress comes from millions of us doing a bit better each day. To become a member of the Broadway Green Alliance we ask only that you commit to becoming greener, that you name a point person to be our liaison, and that you will tell us about your green-er journey.

The BGA is co-chaired by Susan Sampliner, Company Manager of the Broadway company of WICKED, and Charlie Deull, Executive Vice President at Clark Transfer<. Rebekah Sale is the BGA’s full-time Coordinator.

Go to the Broadway Green Alliance

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Better Batteries


Better Batteries is a UK-wide campaign encouraging the music and theatre industries to make the switch to using rechargeable battery systems, particularly for portable sound equipment, and increase battery recycling rates in line with government regulations.


  • Rechargeable batteries have 32 times less impact on the environment than disposables.
  • Rechargeable batteries are completely reliable.
  • Significant cash savings can be made from using a rechargeable system.

Julie’s Bicycle invites you to find out more and get involved at www.BetterBatteries.info, they are launching the nationwide campaign to raise awareness to the environmental and financial benefits of using rechargeable batteries.

Recycle your Batteries

In 2009 only 10% of batteries were recycled in the UK and in February 2010 regulation was put in place requiring this to increase to 18% in 2011, and 45% by 2016. Recycling batteries is crucial to reuse finite natural resources and prevent the release of harmful chemicals such as lead, mercury or cadmium.

Case Studies and more information available here

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Why Eco Products

Rather than just removing non eco products in the theatre, I thought it would be useful to provide a bit of info about why this is important.

“Many products we use in everyday life, from shower gel to T-shirts and even children’s toys, contain harmful artificial chemicals, which contaminate our air, food and drinking water before finding their way into our bodies. Most of the time we use them without even realising, or stopping to think about the long-lasting effects they are having on our health, and the health of the natural world. If you were to analyse the fat in your own body, you would be likely to find harmful chemicals such as brominated flame retardants, DDT, dioxins and many other persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are chemicals that your body cannot get rid of, so they gradually build up over our lifetimes. Worryingly, POPs are even found in babies still in the womb.”


“Here at the health-report site we cannot condone the use of potentially toxic synthetic chemicals on the skin. It may be safer to eat the toxic chemicals rather than apply them to the skin. At least through the digestive system the body can produce specific enzymes to break down the toxic chemicals in the gut and excrete them. No such mechanism exists when chemicals are absorbed through the skin into the body. It is a well proven fact that chemicals applied to the skin are readily absorbed into the bloodstream where they can lodge in any part of the body or organ.”


Go to Arcola Energy