Re-chargeable and lithium-ion batteries should never go into household garbage or recycling bins. They can cause fires from overheating, being punctured, or an electrical fault like a short circuit. It only takes a few seconds to start a fire and injure workers or firefighters, cause major damage to equipment, or even destroy an entire facility.
Some of the items that contain lithium-ion batteries are:
- vape pens
- electronic cigarettes
- power tools
- power banks
- laptops, notebooks, tablets, and computer peripherals
- other portable electronics with screens
- hearing aids
- greeting cards
- and remote controls
Taking batteries and electronics to a drop-off site may be an extra step, but it’s very important. Some batteries, such as single-use alkaline batteries, are safe to put in the trash. Knowing your batteries and their unique needs for storage and disposal is key.
In a press release on the topic, Sarah Murray, DNR E-Cycle Wisconsin coordinator said: “It only takes one lithium-ion battery to cause a huge fire and put workers and fire crews at risk. Recycling facilities that handle cans, bottles, and paper are not designed to handle batteries and electronics. Paper, cardboard, and other material can easily catch fire with a spark from a damaged battery or rechargeable device.”
In 2022, the US waste and recycling industry saw 390 reported fires. However, it is not required to report these incidents and it is estimated that the real number is closer to 2,000. Most of those fires were caused by lithium-ion batteries.
To learn about the different types of batteries you have and how to manage them, the DNR has a household battery recycling guide to help. Together, we can extinguish the threat of recycling fires and promote a greener, safer world.
Photo credit: Outagamie County Recycling and Solid Waste