Back in 2016, Rethink Waste, a recycling and waste processing plant in San Carlos, CA, was the victim of a massive fire that ravaged its facility. Fortunately, no one at the plant was injured in the blaze. Unfortunately, this wasn't an isolated incident. Fires like this have been popping up at recycling facilities across the country in recent years. It's likely that lithium-ion batteries play a major role in the surge of fires, as more electronic devices these days use them.
Although these batteries are recyclable, they require special handling in order to process them properly. The problem is that many consumers don't know this, so they simply toss the batteries in with the rest of their garbage or recyclables. The batteries then make their way into a waste processing or recycling plant, where the heavy machinery involved in the process can break the walls of the batteries, causing them to explode.
Advocating for Change
While many waste companies and local jurisdictions have made efforts in the past to change the way consumers dispose of lithium-ion batteries, none have been very effective thus far. Rethink Waste has taken it upon itself to become an advocate in this area, lobbying for changes to industry regulations. A popular solution is for retailers that sell items with lithium-ion batteries to provide recycling programs for customers to return the items for disposal. Although some retailers do provide this option, it is far from commonplace.
Smartphone and tablet manufacturers are among the biggest contributors to lithium-ion battery waste, and the team at Rethink Waste is lobbying for them to incorporate battery recycling programs as well. This would take some of the burden off retailers and give consumers even more options for recycling their old devices.
From a Consumer Perspective
The next challenge lies in educating consumers. If people don't know about the dangers of improperly disposing of lithium-ion batteries, they can't be expected to do things correctly. Ongoing efforts in this area will need to focus on consumer education so that people know what to do with their old batteries. From direct mail to social media, there are plenty of opportunities to get this important message in front of consumers. If they don't start sorting recyclables correctly, they may begin to see increased costs on their waste bills.
These higher costs will undoubtedly be due to the increased insurance costs waste processing companies face due to fires. Insurance companies are well aware of the risks involved in the industry, making them reluctant to provide coverage when fires are common. This means that recycling companies must pay significantly higher premiums in order to insure their facilities, and those added costs will almost certainly get passed on to consumers.
To learn more about battery recycling and how you can contribute to positive change in this area, get in touch with the recycling experts here at Central Kentucky Fiber Resources. We're always happy to answer any questions you have.