Consumer Reports: Recycling batteries

People rely on batteries to power everything from their remote control to their toothbrush. But it isn't always clear what to do with those batteries when they die.

Consumer Reports has a handy guide to help you do right by the environment and the law.

Despite the fact that batteries power almost everything in our lives, it's not always clear what to do with them when their juice is all used up.

"Ideally, you shouldn't toss them into the garbage," said Consumer Reports Chief Science Officer James Dickerson.

In fact, in some places, it's illegal to throw batteries in the trash! So, whether it's your standard alkaline AA battery, a rechargeable cell phone battery, or the battery from your car, you should treat it with care by using safe storage and disposal methods.

Why? Most batteries contain toxic ingredients like cadmium, lead, lithium or sulfuric acid.

"Batteries can leak, get into the ecosystem and into the groundwater," Dickerson said. "So you really are concerned about that."

And while old batteries may not generate enough energy to power a device, but they could still spark a fire if they're not handled carefully.

Store them in a secure container that keeps them lined up side-by-side, so the contact points can't touch each other or brush up against anything that's metallic or conductive.

Or, Dickerson said, you can "put a little piece of tape on both the positive and negative ends. That makes sure that you don't end up having short circuits or any other type of current coming from the batteries."

An even better option: "Keep the container that you received the batteries initially in. And put them back in," Dickerson said.

Many businesses have battery recycling programs and stores like Best Buy, Lowe's, and Staples will take certain kinds of batteries.

Many towns host events to collect batteries along with other hazardous waste and electronics -- and some also have permanent drop-offs.

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