A company in California tasked with recycling returned electronics for Amazon improperly recycled dozens of lithium-ion batteries, resulting in three garbage truck fires and creating a huge mess on residential streets.
The fires occurred in 2021 near the offices of iDiskk LLC in Campbell, California, according to the Mercury News:
The fires took place on Sept. 22, Oct. 6 and Oct. 13, according to the release, after garbage trucks picked up loads outside the company’s Campbell address. During the Oct. 13 fire, the truck dumped its load in the middle of a street to avoid damage to the vehicle; the lift arms knocked over utility lines in the process, according to the release.
“This case demonstrates the risks of throwing lithium-ion batteries away in the regular trash or recycling,” Deputy District Attorney Christopher Judge said. “These fires are incredibly dangerous to the safety of the garbage truck drivers and first responders who must then act quickly to deal with the fire.”
You’d think a company tasked with recycling electronics returned via Amazon would know better, especially because, as Ars Technica reports, lithium-ion battery fires are incredibly destructive and common in waste management:
A 2018 survey of recycling facilities by the California Product Safety Council found that 83 percent of 26 facilities had a fire in the two years prior, and 65 percent of them were caused by batteries. A study in MDPI by Austrian professors found that, amid increased numbers of fires and significant potential for damage, “No other substance or material has ever comparably endangered the whole waste industry” as discarded portable batteries.
Of course, some batteries end up in trash and recycling because there’s nowhere better to take them. In many parts of the country, a Best Buy or Walmart that will take used electronics is the best option residents may have. Otherwise, the best options include hunting down a proper facility, hoarding them until your local politician hosts a hazardous waste event, or just stashing them away indefinitely (where at least they’ll slowly lose charge).
Nearly all of us at one point were three-year-old fascinated by the loud, lumbering, mechanical friend that was the garbage truck. Do you remember? standing wide-eyes on tippy toes every week? Well, those childhood behemoths need our help. Save the trucks; recycle your lithium-ion batteries properly.