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Garbage burning at a landfill. Photo from 1996 by the US Environmental Protection Agency.  Credit: U.S. EPA Digital Photographs Relating to the Environment
20 Mar 2024

Lithium batteries thrown into regular garbage a growing fire problem

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Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are increasingly being found in garbage, leading to a rise in fires at waste handling sites, according to officials.

"In the last month, we've had two fires, both caused by improper disposal of batteries. When our equipment runs over them, they burst into flames," explained Corey Bang, solid waste manager at the city of Clay County, as reported by MPR News. 

A vigilant worker recently took swift action to prevent a fire at the facility. "The loader operator spotted a battery, quickly grabbed it with the backhoe, and placed it in the middle of the floor," added Bang.

Steve Skoog, the Director of Becker County Environmental Services, echoed these concerns. He mentioned that a recent addition to the county recycling facility was partly due to the necessity of installing a new fire suppression system to safeguard the facility.

Skoog also recounted instances where batteries ignited into flames at the county's solid waste transfer station. "One time, it was after hours, and we had some waste left over on the tipping floor. It started a fire," Skoog recalled. "It caused a lot of heat damage to the building and smoke damage."

According to Skoog, this fire incurred a cost of over $800,000 for the county. Although the official cause was labeled as "undetermined," Skoog indicated that a battery was likely to blame.

 

More information about Battery Safety:

 

EPA on how to handle used batteries

 

Call 2 Recycle: Battery Collection & Recycling Services

 

Minnesota State Do's and Don'ts of Battery Safety: 

 

 

Photo Credit: Public Domain Image.

Garbage burning at a landfill. Photo from 1996 provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency.  Credit: U.S. EPA Digital Photographs Relating to the Environment