KAWARTHA LAKES-A Miller Waste driver reported a near-miss battery fire to Kawartha Lakes’ Waste Management department two weeks ago. While collecting waste and recycling in Lindsay, the driver noticed smoke coming out of the recycling side of the truck and stopped to investigate. Upon investigation, the source of the smoke turned out to be a laptop that had been disposed of in a resident’s blue-box recycling.
Unfortunately, the driver didn’t see the laptop when the recycling bin was emptied into the truck. The truck’s packer then partially crushed the laptop, which damaged and exposed the lithium-ion battery inside. The damaged lithium-ion battery quickly caught fire as a result. Fortunately, thanks to the driver’s quick actions, the fire was contained, the driver was uninjured and no damage to the truck was sustained.
Similarly, in May, Green For Life (GFL) Environmental, the company that the municipality delivers our collected recycling to, experienced two significant fires in one week as a direct result of lithium-ion batteries found on their tipping floor. Both fires started on the tipping floor and spread to the larger pile of recycled material, causing facility evacuations and considerable loss to operations. In this case, the lithium-ion batteries that started the GFL fires did not come from recycling collected in Kawartha Lakes.
As a result, the City is reminding residents that Improperly disposing of lithium-ion batteries, or electronics containing lithium-ion batteries, in your household recycling or waste is very dangerous and can lead to fires. All batteries are considered hazardous waste and should be treated as such. Batteries should never be recycled in your blue-box recycling.
In order to help prevent something like this from happening in the future, it is important to be aware of the following:
What are lithium-ion batteries?
Lithium-ion is the most popular rechargeable battery chemistry used today. They are used to power the devices we use every day and can be found in mobile phones, laptops, tablets, wireless headphones, smart watches, any kind of electric vehicle, power banks, cordless power tools, drones, satellites, vaping devices and many more every day products.
Why can’t they be thrown out with your regular recycling or waste?
Improper disposal of lithium-ion batteries can very easily cause damage to the battery itself, which could lead to a fire. A very small amount of damage to the battery can cause a reaction to the air or other components around it, which can lead to an explosive, aggressive fire that spreads rapidly and is difficult to extinguish. Lithium-ion batteries are also known to unexpectedly re-ignite (without warning) in minutes, hours and even days after all visible fire has been put out. Since lithium-ion batteries that are on fire can potentially explode, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends not trying to fight the fire.
If you observe a lithium-ion battery fire, leave the area, close the door, and call 9-1-1 immediately.
How do you properly dispose of lithium-ion batteries and electronics in Kawartha Lakes?
Lithium-ion batteries can be brought to either of our Household Hazardous Waste sites at the Lindsay or Fenelon landfills. They can also be included in our curbside battery collections that happen twice a year. Old electronics can be brought to any of our five landfills for proper disposal.
Please note that lithium-ion batteries cannot be brought to the household battery collection boxes in our municipal service centres.
Tips from the Kawartha Lakes Fire Rescue Service and the NFPA
Look out for signs of a problem and stop using the lithium-ion battery if you notice any of the following: odour, change in colour, giving off too much heat, change in shape, leaking or odd noises. If it is safe to do so, move the item away from anything that can catch fire and call 9-1-1.
For proper battery disposal, do not put lithium-ion batteries in the trash. Do not put discarded lithium-ion batteries in piles, one damaged battery can lead to other damaged batteries quickly, which will intensify the potential fire and or explosion of the batteries. Hazardous waste recycling is always the best option. Be sure to take them to your local household hazardous waste depot (Lindsay or Fenelon landfill
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