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Help Stop Waste Facility Fires

Updated: Dec 9, 2019

Many RC cars, drones, and personal handheld devices are all powered by a specific type of battery called a lithium polymer battery. Because lithium polymer batteries are pliable, lack a protective outer shell and provide a strong initial surge of energy, they have been involved in, or have been suspected in fires occurring in solid waste management facilities (i.e. route trucks, landfill and recycling transfer stations).

A damaged lithium polymer battery going through ‘thermal runaway’ at the HMR facility

Lithium polymer batteries have a higher risk of going through what is known as “thermal runaway”. Thermal runaway is an uncontrollable build-up of heat within a battery to a point the battery fails - releasing large amounts of energy all at once, catching fire or igniting surrounding material such as paper, chemicals or trash.

To paraphrase Smokey the Bear, YOU can prevent battery fires … and have an important role in preventing lithium polymer battery fires at waste facilities! Before throwing out any battery-powered device, toy or powered electronic, remove the batteries from the device and dispose of them properly. It is good practice to remove batteries from devices that will be stored for long periods of time especially in extremely hot or cold environments.

Damaged batteries will appear swollen or “puffy” and may be hot to the touch. If you come across any damaged rechargeable batteries, especially lithium polymer batteries, place the damaged battery in a metal container that has a metal lid. Fill the metal container with a non-combustible material, like oil dry or cat litter, covering the battery and seal the lid.

All types of batteries, whether damaged or undamaged, can be brought to the Hazardous Material Recovery (HMR) Facility for proper disposal at a small fee.

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