Lithium Battery Fire in Lee, NH

June 2, 2022

Lithium battery disposal is a hot issue. Recently, NRRA shared a post on how to properly dispose of batteries, including lithium batteries, which are serious fire hazards. When not properly disposed, lithium batteries can easily combust, causing costly damage, injury, or even death.

This fact was brought to life, unfortunately, at the Lee, NH Transfer Station earlier this week when an improperly disposed-of lithium battery caught fire.

"Thanks to the quick thinking of the Transfer Station crew today, this situation was handled quickly and safely. Their training was put to good use, and there was no damage to any equipment or the building," said the Lee NH Public Works Department in a Facebook post. "Again, we got really lucky this was spotted quickly, or the situation could have been much much worse!"

For Operators: What can you do to prevent fires at your facility?

- Alert your residents that ALL household batteries, and especially lithium batteries, need to be handled separately from general trash

- Single-use Alkaline batteries must have ends taped before disposal with household trash (as may still hold some charge)

- Batteries must be removed from items going into the scrap metal as fires have also occurred recently at scrap metal yards

- Download and hang our free 18" by 24" poster on proper battery disposal

- Contact NRRA for various programs for batteries

- Consider attending the virtual NHDES workshop, Batteries and Household Hazardous Waste (2.5 hours of CPD)

From the website: This workshop is designed for solid waste operators who handle batteries of any kind or who may come into contact with household hazardous waste. Instructors will focus on the different types of batteries that solid waste operators may encounter, the hazards that occur with each type and the disposal options for batteries. Discussion will also include managing fires that occur from batteries. Attendees will also learn about household hazardous waste basics. 

Please contact Bonnie Bethune at bbethune@nrrarecycles.org or at 603-736-4401 x 118 with questions.

 

For Residents: Lithium Battery Education

- Here is a great educational video on how common household batteries can catch fire when improperly stored, as well as an easy way to help prevent it from happening in your home (which is to ALWAYS tape your battery ports prior to throwing them away or storing them together.)

- Share this graphic on Facebook or Instagram to help spread the word

 

 
- Share the following information on batteries:
 
Every year fires caused by improper battery disposal cost waste, recycling, and scrap operators over 1.2 billion dollars! Properly disposing of your batteries saves money and lives, by lessening the chance of a fire breaking out at a facility. Here are the details:
 
WHAT BATTERIES CAUSE FIRES?
- Lithium-ion batteries found in phones, laptops, cameras, power tools, hoverboards, and tablets are the biggest culprits.
 
HOW DO LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES CATCH ON FIRE?
The Lithium-ion and lithium polymer batteries in these items are often encased in a soft pouch that, when punctured, allows air to reach the battery – causing a chemical reaction that leads to sparks, fire and sometimes explosions. The fire produces toxic smoke.
When batteries are improperly thrown away, they end up in our waste transfer stations and landfill. As waste is compacted and moved with heavy equipment, the pouch encasing the batteries can be punctured and start a fire.
 
HOW DO I DISPOSE OF THESE OLD BATTERIES?
First, figure out what type of battery you have! Is it rechargeable? Car battery? Single use alkaline battery? Or a lithium battery?
 
RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES: These can be recycled once they have reached the end of their life and no longer hold much of a charge. Many big box stores like Home Depot, Lowes, or Staples will take these rechargeable batteries back. Find a location near you: call2recycle.org
 
CAR (or boat) BATTERY: These can also be recycled - you can often take them back to your car dealership or mechanic. You can also find a take-back location near you: recyclingmybattery.com
 
SINGLE USE (ALKALINE) BATTERY: NOT recyclable. Wrap a piece of tape around the battery to cover both ends before tossing these batteries in the trash. 
 
LITHIUM BATTERY: HAZARDOUS - DO NOT PLACE IN TRASH!! These batteries must be handled carefully. Contact your transfer station, recycling program or call2recycle.org to find a drop-off location near you. DO NOT just toss these in the trash - one battery can make a difference in the WORST way.