Smartphone and Other Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Causing Fires

As more and more electronics enter our lives, the lithium-ion batteries that power them end up in our recycling bins more and more. As a result, recycling plants are now figuring out ways to battle the hundreds of battery-caused fires inside their facilities.

Why Are Lithium-Ion Batteries So Widely Used

Because they are lightweight, small, and offer loads of power storage, lithium-ion batteries have grown in usage and popularity. Back in 2017, the global market for them was around $30 billion. That figure is expected to grow to more than $100 billion by the year 2025.

The Danger Is Real

recycling plant in Texas on fire
Smartphone and Other Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Causing Fires

In December 2016, a recycling plant in Texas bust into flames. The fire spread quickly, consuming everything from plastic bottles to discarded paper and cardboard boxes. The company that manages the plant believes the cause of the fire was a lithium-ion battery, just like the one in your laptop or cellphone. These batteries need to be handled carefully because if they overheat, short-circuit, or get damaged somehow, they can have a thermal runaway event. This means they will start producing heat internally, and as they get hotter and hotter, there will a point at which they will begin to smoke and then burn.

Batteries Case FIre
Smartphone and Other Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Causing Fires

Although recycling plants can catch fire from other items, such as discarded fireworks, propane tanks, and aerosol cans, lithium-ion batteries are small, which makes it near impossible to spot them in a pile of trash. It can take an e-cigarette’s pen with a lithium-ion battery to burn an entire facility to the ground.

What Should You Do

Properly recycling batteries
Smartphone and Other Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Causing Fires

It is extremely simple. Instead of recycling electronics at the curb, make sure to check the designated drop-off centers for electronics and combustible batteries in your area. Find the closest one to you and take your discarded electronics there. After all, you don’t throw away electronic devices every day, so you might as well discard them where they will be recycled safely.