A primary battery or primary cell is a battery (a galvanic cell) that is designed to be used once and discarded, and not recharged with electricity and reused like a secondary cell (rechargeable battery). In general, the electrochemical reaction occurring in the cell is not reversible, rendering the cell unrechargeable. As a primary cell is used, chemical reactions in the battery use up the chemicals that generate the power; when they are gone, the battery stops producing electricity. In contrast, in a secondary cell, the reaction can be reversed by running a current into the cell with a battery charger to recharge it, regenerating the chemical reactants. Primary cells are made in a range of standard sizes to power small household appliances such as flashlights and portable radios.
Primary batteries make up about 90% of the $50 billion battery market, but secondary batteries have been gaining market share. About 15 billion primary batteries are thrown away worldwide every year, virtually all ending up in landfills. Due to the toxic heavy metals and strong acids and alkalis they contain, batteries are hazardous waste. Most municipalities classify them as such and require separate disposal. The energy needed to manufacture a battery is about 50 times greater than the energy it contains. Due to their high pollutant content compared to their small energy content, the primary battery is considered a wasteful, environmentally unfriendly technology. Due mainly to increasing sales of wireless devices and cordless tools which cannot be economically powered by primary batteries and come with integral rechargeable batteries, the secondary battery industry has high growth and has slowly been replacing the primary battery in high end products.