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Single-use Powrtabs phone chargers are recyclable and fit in your pocket

It’s no fun when your phone runs out of power and there’s no charger around. Whether you’re at a restaurant in the middle of New York, or deep in Yosemite National Park on a camping trip, you’re going to want to find a way to boost that battery.

Powrtabs could be that way. These are small, emergency battery top-ups that can offer up to four hours of extra battery life, depending on your phone. They come in two flavors: with a Micro USB connector for Android phones, or with a Lightning connector for iPhones. You can buy them for $5 each, or get a discount for buying in bulk.

They’re very easy to use. Open the wrapper, plug the precharged Powrtab into your phone, and the juice will start flowing. They’re rated at 1,000mAh with an output of 5V and 380MA. But what does that really mean?

We tried a couple out with a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which has a 3,600mAh battery in it. The first one took our flagging S7 Edge from 17 percent up to 28 percent and took 39 minutes to do it. The Powrtab got a wee bit warm, but not especially, and you’ll be glad to hear that the S7 Edge didn’t heat up at all.

The second Powrtab we tried took our S7 Edge from 25 percent up to 40 percent and it also took 39 minutes. The S7 Edge has a relatively big battery in it, so you’re going to get more out of a Powrtab if you have a phone with a smaller battery, like the iPhone 7, for example, which has a 1,960mAh battery.

Because they’re disposable, you may well question the environmental credentials of Powrtabs. The outside casing is biodegradable, compact cardboard. So far, so good, but there’s a Li-ion battery inside that.

Li-ion batteries don’t have toxic metals like lead or cadmium in them, as some other batteries do, but they still contain iron, copper, nickel, and cobalt. They’re considered safe for incinerator or landfill disposal by most U.S. states, but California is a notable exception.

Where Powrtabs are sold in store, they’re keen to offer a recycling program. You can also recycle them yourself, as you would any other Li-ion battery. There are lots of options like the call2recycle website that will help you find a recycling location.

If you’ve glanced at the photos above, you’ll no doubt have noticed that the Powrtab packaging is reminiscent of something else. It’s no accident that they look like condoms. Powrtab’s creators, the 23-year-old Helfer brothers, hope you’ll slip an emergency Powrtab into your bag or your car’s glove box, just as you might an emergency condom.

They’re not trying to replace the wall charger or even portable battery chargers, but rather to offer another solution that will help you out in a pinch. To that end, Powrtabs have a shelf life of five years, so you could sling one in a bag and forget about it, until you need it.

Powrtabs are certainly easy to use, and they’re affordable, which may explain why they’ve sold more than 20,000 units in their first month. If you like the idea, head over to the Powrtabs website where you can buy a pack of three Powrtabs for $15 or a six pack for $25.