Monday, November 13, 2023

State Fire Commissioner: Improper Disposal Of Rechargeable Batteries Is Leading To More, And More Dangerous Fires

Pennsylvania’s waste and recycling industry is teaming up with the
Office of the State Fire Commissioner to raise awareness about a growing epidemic of fires caused by the improper disposal of rechargeable batteries in recycling containers and trash bags.

November 15, 2023 is “America Recycles Day,” a day to remind citizens that recycling is a convenient way to make a positive difference on the environment as well as the importance of knowing what can be safely thrown into the recycling bin or garbage bag.

Rechargeable batteries power everything from electronic devices like cell phones, laptops, e-bikes, e-cigarettes, electronic toothbrushes, and remote controls to the batteries used in electric vehicles and even children’s toys. 

While not all rechargeable batteries contain lithium, many longer-life batteries increasingly do.

“The incorrect disposal of lithium batteries in recycling bins and trash bags is leading to dangerous fires that threaten the safety of waste and recycling workers, emergency responders and the general public,” said Mary Keenan, executive director of the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association (PWIA). “As more rechargeable batteries get improperly placed in curbside residential waste or recycling bins, the safety risks related to their combustibility are increasing.”

“Fires caused by rechargeable batteries present a variety of unique challenges for first responders, as they burn hotter and are difficult to completely extinguish,” Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Tom Cook said. “As we head into the holiday shopping season, where so many popular devices are being bought for the first time, or even replaced, we want everyone to know how important it is to follow the manufacturer’s directions, and proper disposal practices.”

In March 2022, a fire attributed to a rechargeable battery burned down a Penn Waste facility in York County.

New York City has reported a three-fold increase of fires on collection trucks since last year that are attributed to the improper disposal of rechargeable batteries.

“PWIA members are working to spot and remove batteries from our trucks and facilities to prevent fires from starting in the first place,” continued Keenan. “We also are collaborating closely with first responders to fight fires more effectively when they do start,” continued Keenan.

Consumer information about proper disposal, including local drop-off locations, can be found at Call2Recycle

Insert your zip code to find a convenient drop-off location – such as Home Depot, Lowe’s or other similar big box stores – that accepts used rechargeable batteries. 

Additional information can be found at the recently launched Environmental Protection Agency website, which is dedicated to questions on lithium-ion batteries.

“November 15 is a good day to remember that recycling is the environmentally responsible thing to do,” said Mary Keenan. “At the same time, we want the public to know not to put these batteries in their trash bags or recycling bins in the first place.”

[Posted: November 13, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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