Lithium Ion Batteries Pose Risk For Recycling

Oct 3, 2016

Rumpke workers sort through material for recycling at the St. Bernard facility.
Credit Emily Wendler / WVXU

There have been six fires this year at Rumpke's recycling plant or on recycling trucks that have been traced to lithium ion batteries.

Rumpke spokeswoman Molly Yeager says the plant in St. Bernard isn't set up to handle the batteries. She says if they break, they become very flammable.

"We're seeing them breaking inside the trucks, so we're seeing the fires on the way to the recycling facility." Yeager says. "And if they don't break on the way to the recycling facility, we're seeing them, as part of the recycling process, break open and then cause fires inside the plant."

Yeager says none of those fires have caused enough damage to shut down the St. Bernard facility yet.

"We want people to recycle. What we really need people to pay attention (to) is what goes in the recycling bin. They're not the same type of application that we're set up to process at our recycling facility," Yeager says. "We process 1.5 million pounds every day of recyclables. But we're really set up to take those plastic bottles and jugs, and those aluminum cans and paper and cardboard and glass bottles and cartons. Not lithium ion batteries."

Yeager says lithium ion batteries are found in some power tools, phones and laptops. She says they can be recycled and some home improvement and electronic stores have programs to collect them.