The lithium-ion batteries that power consumers' electronics often end up in residential recycling bins and then go to materials recovery facilities (MRFs), where they cause fires.
A recent report from The Verge looks at how batteries and electronics at the ends of their lives are fueling “one of the biggest emerging problems in the world of waste.”
The problem with these batteries is that they are small and often impossible to spot. And according to the report, a lithium-ion battery in a singing greeting card or a discarded e-cigarette pen is enough to spark a flame at a MRF.
The Verge has more:
A nightmare for the recycling industry became incarnate when a Texas recycling plant burst into flames in December 2016. The fire caught quickly, melting plastic bottles, consuming cardboard boxes, and incinerating discarded paper. The massive building’s sprinkler system had been damaged in a recent freeze and failed to tamp down the flames. All the firefighters could do was keep the fire contained inside, watching it burn for 12 hours.
By the next morning, it was clear that the facility, a recycling plant that serves the north Texas cities of Plano and Richardson, was a total loss. The fire’s likely cause? The company believes it was a lithium-ion battery, like the one in your cellphone or laptop.