Where to put your old phone batteries (Hint: NOT in the garbage)

Chris Burns - May 18, 2018, 12:53 pm CDT
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Where to put your old phone batteries (Hint: NOT in the garbage)

Lithium-ion batteries are exploding at dumps and recycling plants across the United States – and that’s a problem. These types of batteries come most often in the device that’s likely in your hand or pocket – your smartphone. Today we’re taking a quick peek at a few explosions and a few SUPER SIMPLE ways they could’ve been avoided at the source.

First we’re looking at a video from Ecomaine. According to the team at this recycling facility, someone tossed a Lithium Ion battery (almost certainly from a smartphone) in with the rest of their recyclable material in a single-sort recycling bin.

The fire here was likely caused by a pierced exterior casing of a lithium ion battery. These batteries are mostly constructed in a way that it’s difficult to create a circuit without the original smartphone’s hardware poking in metal in just the right places – but that’s also possible.

The next example shows a situation where sheer dumb luck allowed a battery fire to burn over a MINIMAL amount of space. Even though this battery fire began in a pile of cardboard and paper, it separated from the most flammable bits of its surroundings at the most opportune moment.

Also lucky: There was a bucket loader nearby to stomp it out, like so many bags of flaming poo. Much like the videos above, the video below shows how important it is to separate lithium ion batteries from all other items – even other batteries.

The video above shows a lead battery recycling stream, as interrupted with a BANG because of an accidental placement of a single lithium ion battery. Bad business happens when lithium ion batteries – even the tiny lithium ion batteries in your phones – get tossed in with garbage or standard recycling.

Finally we’ve got a video all the way back in the year 2013. This situation shows what’ll go down if lithium ion batteries are stored in bulk and a fire breaks out. It’s not a pretty sight. This video comes from an insurance agency, showing how simple it is to start such a massive fire.

Oh jeepers! What should I do?

So what should you do if you happen to have a smartphone – or the odd loose lithium ion battery? There’s a few really, really simple options available. If you live in a big city, you might have a Best Buy nearby – they’ve got an electronics recycling program where you can drop off batteries to your heart’s content. The same is true of a large number of Lowe’s, Batteries Plus, RadioShack (lol good luck with that one), Home Depot, and city recycling centers.

Keep your batteries in a bag, and next time you’ve gotta go to one of the stores listed above, bring em with! Every city either has a dump, a recycling center, or both – so utilize that, too, if you’re all about visiting your friendly neighborhood refuse handlers. That’s generally a good place to pick up odds-and-ends free parts, paint, and cords too – all free. Have a peek!

If you’d like other options, head over to Call2Recycle and they’ll give you a few more. The Call2Recycle organization was the first “producer-funded U.S. primary (single-use) battery recycling program launched in Vermont.” They’ll more than likely point you toward this handy-dandy GPS-marked map, showing you your nearest battery recycling facility.


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