Is your recycling a fire hazard?

Excited about your new cell phone purchase, you pull it out of the case and start changing all of the settings.  Your old phone – which has just been replaced by the new model – remains lying on the counter, ready to be discarded.   

It is an electronic and you are pretty certain electronics are recyclable, there are all of those precious metals in them after all.   You throw the old phone in your recycling bin at home, not realizing that you just created a serious fire hazard.   

In recent years, there has been a spike in fires erupting at recycling facilities due to lithium-ion batteries — like the battery contained in that cell phone and other electronics or rechargeable batteries.  One facility fire even took place right in Denton, Texas.

In addition to fires breaking out at recycling facilities, collection trucks have also gone up in flames from lithium-ion batteries.  It goes without saying that these fires are an extreme safety hazard for both drivers and the people working in recycling facilities.  Find out what other mis-recycled items cause potential safety hazards here (link to Hoses, Cords, Wires, Chains – What to Do blog).

Why electronics and batteries are explosive.

It is hard to imagine how such a simple act could cause so much harm, but lithium-ion batteries, whether large or small, are packed with the power of combustion.  Contained inside the batteries is a flammable electrolyte, this helps keep your laptop or cell phone charged, but when put under the right (or wrong) conditions, can ignite into flames.

Once that battery leaves your curb with the other recyclables, it is often tossed in the hopper of a truck.  This hopper not only has hot temperatures, it also compacts the material to fit it all in the truck, putting that lithium-ion battery under pressure.  Hot load coming through!

When the load is delivered to the recycling facility, this already volatile situation, can get even worse.  At the facility, the battery is moved through a series of machines and equipment, causing additional pressure and potential holes to be poked into the battery.  Combine these conditions (pressure and poking) with the mix of paper material moving through the facility, and you can see how things can easily heat up quickly.

Only you can help prevent recycling truck and facility fires!

Most importantly, you want to keep electronics and rechargeable batteries out of your recycling and trash bin.

Thankfully, there are several options for safe disposal and recycling of your electronics and rechargeable batteries.  Many local governments offer a location for the collection of hazardous materials and electronics as part of your solid waste services.  Hop on to your City or County’s webpage, or give them a call, to see where you can take these items.

If your local government does not have a convenient service for disposal, many electronics can be taken back to the retailer or brought to a local electronic recycler.  You can even bring your car batteries to auto shops for recycling!

Help keep everyone safe, including the environment, by finding a secure location to store your rechargeable batteries and electronics until you can properly dispose of them and discover what can be recycled in your program here. (this would link to time to recycle).

Pretty sure you already know what to throw in your recycling bin? Check your recycling knowledge here.

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