Landfill fires are on the rise and a big culprit of these issues has been deduced to lithium-ion batteries, and, more specifically, the ones found in disposable vapes. These fires aren’t only dangerous because of the fire itself but can affect surrounding areas with toxic fumes and smoke.
In the UK, around 1.3m single use vapes are thrown away each week, an alarming rise since they were first sold in 2019. Of course, these are the same volatile devices that have been responsible for starting fires and injuring many after they’ve exploded.
Research conducted by Material Focus, a non-profit organization that runs the Recycle Your Electronics Campaign, discovered that more than 700 fires in haulers and recycling centers resulted from batteries than had been thrown in with general waste.
“They’re sold as disposable, so people just throw them on the floor,” said Owen George, division manager for Grundon. Grundon recycles roughly 80,000 tons of household and municipal waste each year and reports it has seen an uptick in the amount of disposable vapes picked up by sweeping vehicles.
“We didn’t see any about a year or so ago, but now they’re everywhere. We probably pick out 100 to 150 on an eight-hour shift. And they’re just the ones we catch.”
Grundon is reporting around three or four fires in the past year because of vapes making their way into non-recyclable waste streams where they are chopped up. This process can break open lithium-ion batteries causing fires.
“We’ve managed to put them out, but the frequency is really growing,” George said. “It’s not just us – it’s affecting everyone in the industry.”