c/EPA
United States
Environmental Protection
Agency
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in
Waste Management and Recycling
July 2021
Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery
EPA 530-R-21-002

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DISCLAIMER
Mention of trade names, products, or services in this document does not convey, and should not
be interpreted as conveying, official EPA approval, endorsement, or recommendation, or lack
thereof.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Special thanks to the facilities that responded to our inquiries and provided their input and expertise to
this report. Primary authors of this report are Phoebe O'Connor and Patrick Wise of US EPA Office of
Resource Conservation and Recovery. Thank you to the following people who offered their time and
expertise in reviewing the document:
Kathy Lett, US EPA Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery
Mary Beth Sheridan, US EPA Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery
Kristin Fitzgerald, US EPA Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery
Christopher Newman, US EPA Region 5
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Contents
Index of Figures	
Acronyms and Initialisms List	
Executive Summary	
1)	Introduction	
1.1)	Lithium-ion Batteries: Useful and Ubiquitous	
1.2)	Lithium-ion Battery Design and Fire Potential	
1.3)	Regulations	
1.4)	Lithium-ion Batteries in the Municipal Waste Management Process	
1.4.1)	Waste Containers and Storage	
1.4.2)	Transportation	
1.4.3)	Intermediate Sites	
1.4.4)	End-of-Life Facilities	
1.5)	Review of Non-Waste Lithium-ion Battery Incidents	
1.5.1)	E-cigarettes	
1.5.2)	Hoverboards with Counterfeit Batteries	
1.5.3)	Lithium-ion Batteries on Planes	
1.5.4)	Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Recall	
1.6)	Existing Waste Incident Surveys	
1.6.1)	California Product Stewardship Council Survey	
1.6.2)	Fire Rover Report	
1.6.3)	Resource Recycling Systems and South Bay Waste Management Authority Survey
2)	Methodology	
3)	Results	
3.1)	Findings and Charts	
3.2)	Impacts	
3.2.1)Injur	y	
3.2.2)	Service Disruption	
3.2.3)	Monetary Impacts	
3.2.4)	Emergency Response	
3.3)	Industry Experiences	
3.3.1)	Industry Experience 1: Shoreway Environmental Center, San Carlos, California	
3.3.2)	Industry Experience 2: Landfill in the Pacific Northwest	
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3.3.3)	Industry Experience 3: Larimer County Landfill's Recycling Center, Fort Collins, Colorado	31
3.3.4)	Industry Experience 4: Rumpke Waste & Recycling, Cincinnati, Ohio	33
3.3.5)	Industry Experience 5: Pacific Coast Shredding, Vancouver, Washington	34
3.4) Incident Tables	35
4) Conclusion	57
References	59
Interviews	69
Appendix 1: Additional Sites Considered but Not Included	70
Appendix 2: List of Questions from Stakeholder Interviews	72
Appendix 3: Linked Resources	73
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Index of Figures
Figure 1: Diagram of an LIB	4
Figure 2: Photo of a small LIB	7
Figure 3: Photo of an LIB labeled with various symbols	12
Figure 4: Sources of fires at California waste management facilities	17
Figure 5: Facilities affected and number of fires by year	21
Figure 6: Fires by year and facility category	21
Figure 7: Locations of LIB-caused fires across the United States, 2013-2020 	22
Figure 8: Fire impacts by facility type	23
Figure 9: Percent of facilities that have experienced impacts	24
Figure 10: Photo of the aftermath of an LIB fire in a garbage truck	26
Figure 11: Photo of firefighters battling the Larimer County LIB fire	32
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Acronyms and Initialisms List
CFR
Code of Federal Regulations
CPSC
Consumer Product Safety Commission
EPA
Environmental Protection Agency
EPR
Extended producer responsibility
FAA
Federal Aviation Administration
FDA
Food and Drug Administration
HHW
Household hazardous waste
HW
Hazardous waste
LIB
Lithium-ion battery
MRF
Materials recovery facility
MSW
Municipal solid waste
PED
Portable electronic devices
RCRA
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
WTE
Waste-to-energy
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Executive Summary
This report was written to explore the growing number of fires caused by lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) in
the waste management process. Anecdotal information has shown that materials recovery facilities (i.e.,
recycling centers or "MRFs") and other waste facilities have seen an increased number of fires due to
LIBs, but there has been limited data on fire incidents at a national level. This report will help fill in this
research gap.
Data was collected by searching publicly available information on LIB fires in the waste management
process, usually from local news reports. A limited number of industry experts were also interviewed for
this report to collect relevant first-person accounts of LIB issues. Background information on LIB
chemistry and the waste process is provided for context. Incidents of non-waste LIB damage cases and
existing waste incident surveys were included to shed more light on this issue.
This report does not capture all fires caused by improperly discarded LIBs, because not all incidents are
made public, and not all incidents are covered by the news. Due to these limitations, we believe that the
incidents we have identified and described in this report represent the cases that were relatively easy to
find, and that there are likely to be a significant number of additional relevant cases that we did not
identify.
This report found 64 waste facilities that experienced 245 fires that were caused by, or likely caused by,
lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries. Among the facilities were MRFs, transportation vehicles (garbage
trucks, etc.), landfills, and other waste management industry locations (electronics recyclers, transfer
stations, etc.). The included fires occurred between 2013 and 2020 in 28 states and in all 10 EPA
Regions.
These 245 fires affected the facilities and surrounding communities in a variety of ways, which were
consolidated into four main impacts: injuries, external emergency response, service disruptions, and
monetary losses. Some fires caused little to no impacts, such as a number of small fires at a Pacific
Northwest landfill that were easily extinguished by staff members without issue.1 Unfortunately, some
fires were large and destructive, such as those that destroyed entire facilities and caused millions in
damages, injured firefighters, and led facilities to stop collecting LIBs.2
Our findings indicate that LIB fires are happening across the full spectrum of the waste management
process, but MRFs appear to have faced the brunt of the negative impacts. Of the facilities we found to
have experienced an LIB fire in the past seven years, 78% of MRFs have had to call emergency
responders at least once, as opposed to 40% of landfills. Five MRFs (or 22%) in our dataset have
experienced injury impacts from LIB fires, compared to only two other facilities (a transport truck and a
battery recycler). Close to half (43%) of the MRFs that experienced fires have faced monetary impacts.
Among the cases we compiled, MRFs also had the highest incidence of service disruption (39%).
Such impacts are not surprising when the waste management process is examined. The highly
mechanized waste management process often includes machines that crush and consolidate waste and
1	See Industry Experience 2 and facility 45: Pacific Northwest Landfill
2	See facility 20: Republic Services Recycling Center, Piano, TX: facility 15: Royal Waste Services, Queens, NY: and
facility 52: Westonka Library Battery Drop-off Bin, Mound, MN
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is inhospitable to LIBs, which can be damaged easily. When damaged, LIBs can start fires by igniting the
surrounding trash and recyclables.
Due to increased consumer adoption of portable electronics, LIBs will only continue to become more
prevalent in the waste management process and incidents such as these could also increase. However,
through increased collaboration between and action by consumers, industry, and regulators,
approaches to safely managing these batteries could be evaluated and implemented.
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1) Introduction
This section presents background information about LIBs and the environmental regulations that
currently apply to them. It describes waste management processes in the United States and why LIBs are
so incompatible with them, as well as examples of non-waste LIB fires and existing waste incident
surveys.
1.1)	Lithium-ion Batteries: Useful and Ubiquitous
LIBs are powerful, relatively inexpensive, and lightweight energy sources that power a wide array of
electronics and portable tools and are therefore nearly ubiquitous in today's world. LIB applications in
consumer electronics include wireless headphones, cell phones, laptops, tablets, handheld gaming
devices, hearing aids, calculators, hoverboards, e-cigarettes, portable tools, cameras, and other devices.
They are also found in larger applications such as electric vehicles and energy storage systems.
Given their usefulness, it is not surprising that the number of LIBs in circulation has increased rapidly in
recent years and is projected to continue rising at a near-exponential rate (Argus, 2017). In fact, a report
commissioned by Call2Recycle in 2016 projected that 42 million kilograms (92 million pounds) of LIBs
would be sold in 2020, with 26.5 million kilograms (58 million pounds) reaching end of life that same
year (Kelleher Environmental, 2016). Beyond being used in consumer electronics and appliances, the
transition we are seeing from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles will require a major
increase in LIB production (Ding et al., 2019). Likewise, demand for LIBs and other types of rechargeable
batteries3 will increase as the world transitions to relying on renewable energy sources that require
large-scale energy storage systems to address their intermittent nature (Department of Energy [DOE],
2019).
1.2)	Lithium-ion Battery Design and Fire Potential
An LIB is composed of the same fundamental components as other batteries: one or more cells made up
of an anode, a cathode, and a separator. The anode, or negative end of the battery cell, is usually
composed of a graphite matrix embedded with a lithium compound. The anode also contains a current
collector, which is often comprised of copper. On the opposite end of the cell, the cathode (or positive
end) is often cobalt oxide, though other compounds (e.g., iron phosphate, sulfur, manganese oxide, etc.)
can be used, depending on the chemistry of the LIB. A liquid electrolyte is located between the anode
and cathode, and a thin layer of polyethylene or polypropylene acts as the 'separator' in the middle that
selectively allows the lithium ion to pass from one side to another, creating the useful voltage that
powers a device. Batteries are composed of one or more of these power-generating cells. Please see
figure 1 for a diagram of an LIB.
3 Other rechargeable battery types include currently available chemistries like nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal
hydride, and lead-acid (PRBA: The Rechargeable Battery Association, n.d.), as well as more experimental
chemistries like lithium-air, sodium-ion, lithium-sulfur (Battery University, 2020), and vanadium flow batteries
(Rapier, 2020). However, this report focuses on lithium metal batteries and LIBs because they are the most
common types in use and primary cause of battery-related fires in the waste management process.
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Charge (energy storage)
Charger
JMr
Discharge (power to the device)
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Electrolyte
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Figure 1: Diagram of an LIB.
"How a lithium-ion battery works" by Argonne National Laboratory licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of
this license, visit https://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/
During discharge, positively charged lithium atoms (called lithium ions) in the anode move through the
electrolyte, across the separator, and into the cathode. In so doing, they leave behind electrons that
cannot cross the separator. With nowhere else to go, these electrons move into the current collector
and through a circuit that powers the device. This process can be reversed by running a current in the
opposite direction—i.e., by recharging the device (University of Washington Clean Energy Institute [UW
CEI], n.d.). Lithium metal batteries, sometimes called lithium primary batteries or simply lithium
batteries, use this same mechanism but cannot be recharged. This report focuses primarily on LIBs,
though lithium metal batteries share many characteristics with LIBs and thus pose similar threats in the
waste management process.
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LIBs exhibit several desirable characteristics that make them the preferred choice for many rechargeable
devices. From an environmental health perspective, LIBs are preferable to other rechargeable
chemistries like nickel-cadmium (NiCad) batteries because LIBs are not known to contain certain toxic
chemicals like lead or cadmium. Self-discharge rates, or how quickly the battery will lose a charge while
not in use, are also low for LIBs. But perhaps most importantly, LIBs have high energy density, meaning
they store a large amount of energy relative to their size and weight (UW CEI, n.d.).
However, this high energy density and the materials needed to achieve it make LIBs prone to
combustion or explosion when they are damaged. A damaged or defective LIB may experience thermal
runaway, a reaction in which the battery unexpectedly releases its energy and begins self-heating in a
runaway reaction. This reaction can quickly produce enough heat to ignite materials near the battery,
even if the battery itself does not ignite. Though other types of batteries can experience thermal
runaway, LIBs are particularly prone to combustion because they store such large amounts of energy. An
LIB's electrolyte is also combustible, providing fuel to the fire, though there is on-going research to find
non-ignitable electrolyte substitutes. If the heat is not dissipated sufficiently, thermal runaway will
spread to other cells of a multi-cell battery, or even to other LIBs located nearby.4 In practice, this chain
of events means that LIB fires that are suppressed often reignite as more cells or batteries enter thermal
runaway (Mikolajczak et al., 2011).
One of the most common causes of thermal runaway in LIBs is physical damage to the battery. When a
battery casing is punctured, crushed, or otherwise mechanically damaged,5 the separator may be
pierced. If the separator is breached, a short circuit can develop as the anode and cathode come into
contact, allowing the LIB's stored energy to be rapidly released. This short circuit creates heat buildup,
which can then trigger thermal runaway in other cells. Notably, physical damage to the battery may not
immediately trigger a fire, creating the possibility of a fire later in the battery's life. This threat is
significant enough that some LIB manufacturers will discard any batteries that have been dropped or
otherwise damaged during manufacturing, even if no physical damage or fire is immediately evident
(Mikolajczak et al., 2011).
Other conditions can also increase the likelihood of or even trigger thermal runaway in an otherwise-
undamaged battery. LIBs are designed to operate within safe minimum and maximum potential charge
levels. However, when internal controls fail, LIBs may overcharge or overdischarge beyond safe levels,
increasing the likelihood of thermal runaway. High temperatures and conditions that prevent heat
dissipation (e.g., cells packed too closely together) can also increase the risk of thermal runaway.
Additionally, if the liquid electrolyte within an LIB evaporates, flammable gases can be generated which
could cause the battery case to swell or the LIB to ignite (Mikolajczak et al., 2011). Other authors have
noted the generation of toxic fluorine gases from these fires (Larsson et al., 2018).
4	See facility 33: Union Pacific Train. Houston. TX
5	Physical damage can even occur within the battery without any external shock; dendrites, or small rigid
projections that are formed by the LIB's chemical reactions, can develop inside an LIB and puncture its separator,
triggering thermal runaway. Researchers are working to decrease the likelihood of dendrite formation (James,
2020).
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1.3)	Regulations
When discarded, LIBs are regulated under federal and state waste rules. Under the Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), anyone generating solid wastes must determine if they are
hazardous waste (HW). When determined to be hazardous waste, waste must be managed from cradle
to grave to prevent releases into the environment. A solid waste can be determined to be hazardous
either because it is specifically listed as hazardous in the regulations, or because it exhibits a hazardous
waste characteristic (ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity). LIBs are not a listed waste, but
commonly exhibit the characteristic of ignitability due to the flammable electrolyte. Some LIBs also
exhibit the reactivity characteristic. Since some LIBs possess characteristics of HW, this means that some
LIBs are HW.
LIBs can be managed as universal waste under the special RCRA HW provisions at 40 CFR Part 273. These
provisions are intended to promote safe management of specific HWs (batteries, pesticides, etc.) using
simplified management standards, while still ensuring they are safely disposed of as hazardous waste or
recycled. EPA has historically encouraged waste handlers to manage LIBs under the universal waste
battery classification, but these regulations were written before LIBs became commonplace. Therefore,
they are not specifically tailored to the management of LIBs with their high energy density and unique
chemistry.
In addition, EPA does not regulate wastes generated at a residence that are composed of common
household waste as HW (see 40 CFR 261.4(b)(1)). This means that household LIB waste is not federally
regulated as HW. The household hazardous waste (HHW) exemption follows the waste throughout the
waste management process, so LIBs disposed of by households are not regulated as HW at any point in
the disposal process. Regardless of their classification as HHW, as a best practice, consumers should
not dispose of LIBs in their household trash or recycling; rather, consumers should look for HHW drop-
off locations or battery or electronics collection programs that will allow them to properly dispose of
their LIBs.
Please note that other standards may also apply to lithium batteries, for example U.S. DOT's shipping
regulations and voluntary product safety standards. Additionally, although LIBs disposed in household
trash are exempt from federal HW regulations, states can be more stringent and have the authority to
regulate solid waste. Therefore, there may be additional state and/or local rules for discarded batteries.
Voluntary standards, state regulations, and other safety regulations are not discussed in depth in this
document but are critical for safety throughout a battery's lifecycle.
1.4)	Lithium-ion Batteries in the Municipal Waste Management Process
Municipal waste usually travels through numerous waste management facilities from the point of
generation to the end facility. Originating at homes or businesses, municipal waste then goes to landfills,
recycling facilities, or incinerators, with optional stops between. Unfortunately, LIBs can be incompatible
with this complex waste management ecosystem in numerous ways. LIBs can be damaged at many
different steps of the waste management system, such as when waste is dumped onto tipping floors,
loaded or unloaded from transportation vehicles, manipulated with heavy machinery, or processed on
conveyor belts and through screens (Timpane et al., 2017). In particular, the highly mechanized
processes at MRFs can damage LIBs and trigger thermal runaway, potentially leading to injuries,
monetary losses, emergency response, and service disruptions, among other impacts. The number of
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LIBs entering municipal waste is also growing
rapidly, raising the likelihood of fires caused by
LI Bs. One MRF tracked the LIBs it pulled out of its
incoming recyclables and collected over 1,000
LIBs in less than five weeks—that means that
over five LIBs, each of which poses the potential
to start a fire, entered the facility every hour
(Timpane et al., 2017). Reports from operators of
MRFs and landfills also indicate that the number
of LIBs in the waste management process has
risen precipitously in recent years, forcing
workers in these facilities to become de facto
experts at spotting the batteries and
extinguishing the fires that they inevitably
ignite.6
Dedicated LIB recycling programs could alleviate these problems by diverting batteries that would
otherwise enter municipal solid waste (MSW), and could also help meet increasing market demand for
LIBs driven by growing demand for electric vehicles, energy storage systems, and portable consumer
electronics (Argus, 2017; Ding et al., 2019; Timpane et al., 2017). Recycling could halve the amount of
raw natural resources needed for LIB production, decreasing both the amount of ore that must be
extracted from the earth and the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the process (Dewulf et al.,
2010). Since raw materials account for over half of the production costs of LIBs (Jacoby, 2019),
increasing recycling rates could also drive down battery costs.
Reliable data on LIB recycling is not yet available. A common assumption is that the recycling rate is
low,7 due to technical constraints, economic barriers, logistical issues, and regulatory gaps. This
assumption is not universally held, at least internationally and particularly in regard to electric vehicle
battery recycling, where it is thought to be higher (Melin, 2019). Most battery recycling occurs outside
the United States, although a number of LIB recyclers are in the process of starting operations in the
United States in the coming years (Kumagai, 2021). A 2019 report by a London consulting firm estimated
that as many as 85,000 metric tons of LIBs were recycled in China and South Korea in 2018, while at
most 12,000 metric tons were recycled in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan combined
(Melin, 2018, 2019). Whatever the true recycling rate is, industry reports that it is growing. On the
collection side, Call2Recycle, an organization that supports the collection of LIBs and other batteries for
recycling, saw a 36% year-over-year increase in their LIB collection volume in 2019 (Call2Recycle, 2020)
Consumers may be becoming more aware of the importance of recycling LIBs due to advocacy
campaigns8 and fires widely reported in the media,9 but recycling rates for these materials most likely
6	See industry Experience 1 and facility 5: Shorewav Environmental Center, San Carlos, CA; and industry Experience
2 and facility 45: Pacific Northwest Landfill
7	The literature often refers to a battery recycling statistic that originated in Europe and is close to a decade old;
namely, that only about 5% of global LIBs are recycled (European Battery Recycling Association, 2011; Friends of
the Earth Europe, 2013; Melin, 2019).
8	See Industry Experience 3 and facility 6: Larimer County Landfill's Recycling Center, Fort Collins, CO
9	See Industry Experience 1 and facility 5: Shorewav Environmental Center, San Carlos, CA

Figure 2: Photo of a small LIB. LIBs can be smaller than a
quarter and integrated into a device with other electronics
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still lag far behind other recyclable materials and higher levels may be needed to sustainably meet
future demand.
1.4.1)	Waste Containers and Storage
LIB waste is created when batteries that are no longer functional or desired are disposed, often in trash
cans or other storage containers. LIBs are often found discarded in the general trash and recycling bins,
rather than specialty battery drop off bins, which can be found in some public facilities or large stores.
Regular waste or recycling bins are not designed for LIBs. Many consumers are not aware of LIB best
practices for disposal, which include taping the terminals and/or bagging batteries individually. When
discarded in recycling bins or garbage cans without using these best practices, batteries can be jostled
together, which could lead to damage. Batteries may also encounter liquids in the bin, including
chemically reactive materials. Battery terminals may touch other metallic objects, which could cause the
battery to short-circuit and start a fire (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Agency, 2019).
Some varieties of LIBs may pose additional risk when disposed improperly in garbage cans. For example,
LIB-powered vape pens can turn on accidentally in trash cans and start fires by igniting trash. Such an
event occurred in Mound, Minnesota: a battery collection bin at the Westonka Library experienced a
small fire when a discarded vape pen flipped on and ignited the contents of the collection bin.10 The fire
was extinguished by staff before any damage was done, but the incident shows a danger of disposing of
LIBs, even when they are still in devices. Had this fire occurred outside of business hours without staff
present, it could have caused a larger fire, potentially injuring first responders or damaging the building.
1.4.2)	Transportation
Municipal waste is then collected from containers and transported to facilities. Transportation is usually
done by a municipal or commercial waste management vehicle, or less commonly, the waste generator
transports their own waste directly to a facility. Waste may also be transported on general
transportation trucks or trains, which may not be as prepared to deal with garbage fires as waste
management trucks are.
Waste is usually collected by separate recycling and MSW trucks. Some areas may also have specialty
vehicles, such as scrap metal trucks. Vehicles are designed to transport certain types of waste, but most
are not designed to safely handle LIBs.
Garbage trucks crush waste with on-board compactors. These compactors may damage LIBs, which
sometimes leads to the batteries undergoing thermal runaway and igniting the surrounding trash. When
this occurs, the standard protocol for haulers is to find a safe location to dump the burning trash and
wait for the fire department to arrive and extinguish the fire. However, if the fire gets large enough,
trucks and surrounding areas may be in danger of igniting as well.
LIBs may encounter materials they are not designed to touch in transit. This includes other batteries,
liquids, acids, alkalis, or other reactive compounds (including bleach, ammonia, or battery acid)
(Timpane et al., 2017). Reactions may occur due to this contact, which is another potential way a fire
could start.
10 See facility 52: Westonka Library Battery Drop-off Bin, Mound, MN
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LIB fires may also remain unnoticed for longer when they occur in transit. LIBs could be packed below
other material and fires may not be immediately visible. An incident may only be noticed after
combustion occurs, due to drivers being unable to see the smoke while driving. Such an incident
occurred in Livingston County, Michigan, when an LIB fire started in a transport truck.11 The semi-tractor
driver managed to detach his truck cab before the fire spread, but his trailer was damaged by the time
he noticed the fire.
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates the movement of hazardous materials, like
lithium batteries, when transported in commerce as in the case of contract waste haulers or commercial
recyclers. Lithium batteries must be packaged per the regulations found in 49 CFR 173.185. which
include requirements for inner packaging, strong rigid outer packaging and protection against short
circuits. Marking to indicate the presence of lithium batteries must be placed on each outer packaging.
Any commercial entity, such as a battery collection program, is subject to these requirements. Private
individuals disposing of household lithium batteries are not subject to these requirements unless they
are preparing the battery for shipment using a shipping/mail-in program. Shipments made using carriers
other than the United States Postal Service (USPS) are subject to the DOT requirements. Any shipments
made using USPS, if authorized, are subject to USPS requirements and restrictions.
More information on DOT requirements can be found on their webpage.
1.4.3)	Intermediate Sites
Waste may stop at intermediate sites before arriving at the end-of-life facility. Intermediate sites include
transfer stations and drop-off locations like convenience centers.
Transfer stations consolidate waste from different collection routes. These facilities may be located in
rural areas too small to support their own landfills or MRFs, and they play an important role in the hub-
and-spoke system of waste management. In this system, waste is collected and consolidated at transfer
stations and brought to a centralized "hub" location for processing. At the transfer station, typically
trucks dump waste onto a tipping floor and it is then loaded onto vehicles, often larger tractor-trailers
(Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, 2018). If batteries have been damaged in the transport
process, the jostling from unloading and reloading could potentially start fires.
Convenience centers are waste drop-off centers for customers. They are sometimes used for materials
that are not accepted at curbside pickup. Waste is stored here and typically transferred to another
facility for disposal or processing. Dangers here are similar to those seen at other facilities like MRFs; for
example, in Rutherford county, Tennessee, a vacuum cleaner containing an LIB caught on fire when it
went through the compactor at the convenience center.12
1.4.4)	End-of-Life Facilities
Waste LIBs will ultimately end up at a facility designated for recycling, energy recovery, or disposal.
These facilities include specialty recyclers (e.g., battery recyclers or electronics recyclers), scrap yards,
MRFs, waste-to-energy plants, and landfills.
11	See facility 26: Sunview Logistics Truck, Livingston County, Ml
12	See facility 58: Rutherford County Solid Waste Convenience Center, Murfreesboro, TN
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Battery Recyclers
The ideal end location of an LIB would be a dedicated battery recycler: a facility that is designed to
receive LIBs and separate components for recycling into new batteries. In many LIBs, the concentrations
of cobalt, nickel, lithium, and manganese exceed the concentrations in natural ores, making spent
batteries akin to highly enriched ore (Jacoby, 2019). Thus, waste batteries are a valuable resource, and
specialty recyclers provide the opportunity to recover these materials.
Battery facilities mainly recycle LIBs through mechanical or physical separation, pyrometallurgy, or
hydrometallurgy. Some facilities use multiple methods to maximize material recovery. The industry is
still growing, so new recycling methods are being developed. One method that is being tested at lab
scale is direct recycling, in which the engineered cathode structure is maintained throughout the
recycling process for use in new batteries (ReCell Center, 2020).
Mechanical or physical separation splits battery components into smaller constituent parts. Larger
battery packs (e.g., electric vehicle batteries) may be made of dozens of modules and hundreds of
individual cells, which can be split up during the recycling process. After additional processing is done,
materials may also be physically separated further with filters, magnets, or sieves (Harper et al., 2019).
Pyrometallurgy (e.g., smelting) is a process that heats material in a high temperature furnace to extract
metals. Units run as high as 1,500 °C and the process can recover cobalt, nickel, and copper, but not
lithium or aluminum, which end up in a waste residue called slag (Jacoby, 2019). The high heat required
causes this process to be energy intensive. An alloy of cobalt, nickel, and copper is the final product,
along with residual gases and slag (Harper et al., 2019). The resulting alloy requires more processing to
extract individual minerals to be used as components in the battery supply chain.
Hydrometallurgy is a chemical leaching process for extracting and separating cathode metals. It
generally has lower capital costs than pyrometallurgy. The process can run below 100 °C, requires less
energy than pyrometallurgy, and recovers lithium in addition to the other metals recovered by
pyrometallurgy (Jacoby, 2019). The process uses a liquid bath to extract the metal from batteries, which
can be composed of caustic reagents such as hydrochloric, nitric, or sulfuric acids (Jacoby, 2019).
Different facilities have different processes; for example, one facility crushes batteries under a liquid
solution to produce metal solids (known as "black mass"), metal enriched liquid, and plastic fluff (Chen
et al., 2019). Materials are then sent to metal refiners for purification and sold back into the market to
be made into new batteries and other products.
Even though battery recyclers are designed to process LIBs, fires may still occur. For example, batteries
in storage at recycling facilities are at risk of fire prior to recycling. If any of the batteries have been
damaged in prior steps of the waste process, a fire could start at any time. Such an incident occurred in
Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, when cell phone and radio batteries in storage ignited and burned down a
recycler's warehouse.13
Recyclers may also be able to target LIBs for direct reuse. The reuse market is still growing, but one such
potential reuse application is giving electric vehicle batteries a second life as energy storage batteries
(Harper et al., 2019). Second-life LIBs may also serve as a replacement for lead-acid batteries in various
13 See facility 57: Inmetco, Ellwood City, PA
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
10

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applications (e.g., automotive starter batteries, forklifts, and telecommunications backup power
systems) (Neubauer et al., 2015).
Electronics Recyclers
Electronics recyclers collect and disassemble various types of electronic products including cell phones,
tablets, computers, and printers, and may then shred the scrap or send the scrap out to processors for
further treatment. Such processers may be domestic specialty recyclers, or recyclers abroad in South
Korea, China, Singapore, Belgium, Germany, or other countries (Chen et al., 2019).
Electronics recyclers are set up to process electronics, not energy storage devices, but now often receive
products containing LIBs. For safety reasons, the battery is typically removed from devices prior to
processing. However, removing LIBs from some products (e.g., laptops, cell phones or headphones) can
be particularly difficult. These devices often contain embedded LIBs that are encased in plastic or glued
into devices, making them very difficult or even impossible to remove intact. Electronics recyclers make
money per device, and embedded and glued-in batteries slow down the dismantling process
dramatically. For example, an iPad with a glued-in LIB may take 40 minutes to disassemble and be worth
$1, at most, in scrap (Fowler, 2018). Embedded batteries in electronics jeopardize the economics of the
electronics recycling industry. Employees spend time retrieving a low-value product, and, when an LIB
starts a fire, even more time is lost and workers' health is threatened. Such an incident occurred at an
electronics recycler in Madison, Wisconsin, when a cell phone burst in flames as an employee attempted
to remove the battery.14
Scrap Yards
Scrap yards collect, sort, and consolidate scrap metal to be resold and recycled into new products. Scrap
metal is often bulky (such as from scrap cars and construction scrap) so scrap yards use shredders to
shred and consolidate the material. Just like garbage truck compactors, shredders pose a risk: any LIBs
that go through the shredder can be punctured and start fires.
The large stockpiles of scrap metal present at most scrap yards also pose a risk if damaged LIBs are
present. For instance, a fire started in a 3,000-pound stockpile at Simon Metals in Vancouver,
Washington.15 The battery may have arrived damaged, or may have been damaged in the pile.
Sometimes scrap piles are so large that fires deep in the pile can go unnoticed, and when smoke or
flames become visible, it can be challenging to put the fire out.
Materials Recovery Facilities
MRFs receive and sort scrap paper, plastics, glass, and metals into separate streams. Different types of
recyclables are baled by category and sent to recyclers. Any remaining non-recyclable materials are then
sent for disposal. If spotted in the separation process, LIBs will be taken out of the MRF and sent to a
specialty recycler or landfill. If LIBs go unnoticed, they may become damaged by the sorting process.
Belts, fans, and shakers can jostle batteries against the other materials and can lead to batteries being
damaged and starting a fire. Conveyor belts may then send smoldering batteries throughout the facility
14	See facility 64: Cascade Asset Management, Madison, Wl
15	See Industry Experience 5 and facility 63: Pacific Coast Shredding, Vancouver, WA
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
11

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unless the belts are stopped. Furthermore, MRFs are full of flammable material. When fires do start,
they may spread quickly due to the large amounts of paper and cardboard present.
The overall U.S. recycling rate has grown on average over time,
up to 32.% in 2018 (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA],
2020b). Consequently, throughput at MRFs has increased
dramatically in recent years, from an average of 129 tons per
day in 2001 to 214 tons per day in 2014 (Governmental Advisory
Associates, Inc., 2013, as cited in Gershman, Brickner & Bratton,
Inc., 2015). Part of this increased material includes
contaminants that MRFs are not designed to process, like LIBs.
A study done in Florida found an average contamination rate of
25% at MRFs (Townsend & Anshassi, 2020). Mistakes and so-
called "wishful recycling" result in many non-recyclable
materials showing up in MRFs. As an example, consumers may
think plastic earbuds are recyclable without considering the
embedded battery within. As there are no standardized labels in
the United States for LIBs, and the products are often labeled
for international compliance, LIBs are also sometimes labelled
with the "chasing arrows" recycling symbol and/or that of a
trash can with an 'X' over it (figure 3), which can confuse
customers and lead to LIBs being tossed in regular recycling bins
rather than being sent to specialty recyclers.
Waste to I nergy Plants
Waste-to-energy (WTE) plants burn waste for energy recovery and volume reduction. Some MSW
collection goes straight to WTE plants if landfilling is not available or not desirable in a location. Some
waste that is not recyclable and not landfilled also gets sent to WTE plants from MRFs. Material is
typically brought into facilities on trucks and dumped onto a tipping floor before incineration. The
leftover ash is then disposed in landfills.
Even though waste is supposed to combust at WTE plants, sometimes combustion occurs before waste
hits the furnace. Fires can occur on the concrete tipping floor as LIBs are jostled when dumped from
garbage trucks, as is thought to have occurred at one WTE plant in Spokane, Washington.16
Landfills
MSW landfills are the final destination for most trash generated in the United States (EPA, 2020b). Some
landfills sort waste as it arrives, which can lead to LIBs getting pulled out and diverted from the landfill.
Without sorting, the batteries will be placed in the landfill with other waste. At this point, the batteries
have likely been jostled, crushed, and compressed, so they are very likely to be damaged at this stage.
Damaged batteries may then start fires in the landfill, using the surrounding waste as fuel.
Landfills have a few unique characteristics that lead to an increased risk of LIB fires. When trucks or
compaction equipment drive through active landfill cells, batteries may be crushed under their wheels
16 See facility 61: Spokane Waste-to-Energy Plant, Spokane. WA

^1

r
MADE IN KOREA/ FINISHED IN CHINA
FABRIQUE EN COHEE / FINIT10N EN CHINE
ENSAMBLADO EN CHINA / M0NTAD0 NA CHINA
3.7 V Li-ion BATTERY 3.7 V Li-ion BATTERIE5.55Wh
3,7 V Li-ion BATERIA 3,7 V Li-ion BATERIA 5,55Wh


® H


^ ^ M mm®


Figure 3: Photo of an LIB labeled with various
symbols. LIBs are sometimes marked with
symbols both to encourage recycling (bottom
left) and to discourage disposal in household
waste (bottom right), causing confusion.
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
12

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and ignite the surrounding waste. Walking on the landfill surface is dangerous, so operators take on a
certain level of risk when they exit their vehicles to extinguish fires. Batteries may also be exposed to
direct sunlight before the landfill cover is applied, which can result in fires being ignited. As garbage
decomposes in landfills, temperatures in piles can rise. These higher temperatures can also lead to fires.
Other types of landfills include construction and demolition (C&D) landfills, coal combustion residual
(CCR) landfills, and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) landfills. C&D landfills could potentially have batteries
and flammable construction debris, but CCR and PCB landfills are unlikely to contain LIBs.
Hazardous Waste Disposal Facilities
Some landfills are designated for HW disposal and contain more protections than MSW landfills. Such
landfills may also have batteries, as batteries can be designated as universal waste, and therefore
managed as HW across the United States. HW landfills are subject to land disposal restrictions and the
wastes in them are subject to treatment standards.
However, treatment may not always remove fire hazards for LIBs. Numerous HW facilities experienced
severe fires in the early 2000s from waste lithium primary batteries. In one extreme case, the resulting
fire burned down the entire facility, which was never rebuilt (D. Case, personal communication, March
17, 2021). More recently, a 2019 fire in a Western HW landfill was likely started by a lithium battery
coming into contact with pool chemicals in a landfill cell (EPA, personal communication, 2019).17
1.5) Review of Non-Waste Lithium-ion Battery Incidents
LIBs are not just a hazard in waste processing. There have been many documented incidents involving
non-waste LIBs. Granted, LIBs are quite safe when not improperly disposed, with a failure rate of less
than one in a million (St. John, 2016). Despite this low failure rate, LIBs are so ubiquitous that numerous
high-profile incidents have occurred, prompting various U.S. government agencies to place limits and
warnings on consumer LIBs. Although some of the following battery fires are due to overcharging, which
is largely irrelevant to the waste process, the incidents illustrate the fire risk posed by LIBs—a risk that
does not go away once the batteries enter the waste system.
1.5.1) E-cigarettes
E-cigarettes constitute one particularly noteworthy source of improperly disposed LIBs. According to the
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020), e-cigarettes, also known as vapes or mods,
simulate smoking a cigarette by delivering a cloud of aerosol, flavoring, and (sometimes) nicotine when
the user inhales. With nearly 500 different brands of e-cigarette to choose from (Zhu et al., 2014),
Americans have widespread access to a multitude of vaping products. In 2018, the National Center for
Health Statistics at the CDC found that nearly 15% of Americans had used an e-cigarette at least once,
with over eight million adults actively using e-cigarettes (Villaroel et al., 2020).
E-cigarettes can be rechargeable or non-rechargeable, but both formats contribute batteries to the
waste system. Users of non-rechargeable e-cigarettes may incorrectly assume these devices can be
discarded in their household trash because they are often branded as "disposable." This leads to the
entire device, including its (often lithium metal) battery, entering the municipal waste. Meanwhile, users
of rechargeable vaping devices sometimes modify their device by switching out components, including
17 See facility 40: Western HW Landfill
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
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the battery.18 This creates the additional potential that rechargeable vape devices are contributing LIBs
to municipal waste even before the e-cigarette itself reaches end of life. Compounding the problem,
these LIBs may be damaged during the removal process, increasing their likelihood of ignition. Between
this large and growing source of end-of-life LIBs and mistaken consumer perceptions that e-cigarettes
and their batteries are disposable in household trash, vape batteries could pose one of the greatest fire
risks to the waste system.
Granted, some technological advancements and standards have been made to address the fire threat
posed by e-cigarette LIBs, but these efforts have not fully succeeded. Many vapes include timeout
devices to prevent overheating and locking mechanisms to prevent unintentional activation, but
anecdotal evidence indicates those safety devices do not always prevent a fire.19 These measures also
do nothing to prevent fire caused by damage done to the e-cigarette's LIB during waste processing. To
address the potential damage from use and handling, Underwriter Laboratories, a technical standards-
setting organization, has issued Standard 8139, Electrical Systems of Electronic Cigarettes as a voluntary
set of guidelines and testing criteria specific to e-cigarette batteries (Underwriter Laboratories, n.d.).
However, these standards focus on consumer safety and do not extend to end-of-life considerations.
Similarly, regulatory standards applied to e-cigarettes focus much more on their use and direct health
effects than on the safety issues they create at end of life. In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) issued a final rulemaking regulating e-cigarettes as tobacco products, but these regulations do not
address waste issues. The FDA also considered creating a requirement for e-cigarette manufacturers to
test the safety of their products' electronic systems (including LIBs) but has not done so. Rather, FDA has
encouraged e-cigarette manufacturers to adhere to Underwriter Laboratories Standard 8139 (Food and
Drug Administration [FDA], 2019).
To investigate this issue, the United States Fire Administration (USFA, 2017) collected data on nearly 200
incidents in which e-cigarette batteries started a fire or exploded. In two-thirds of these incidents, the
battery caused ignition of some other material—reflecting the potential danger e-cigarette-derived LIBs
pose in the waste management process, where the batteries will be mixed with other combustible
materials like wastepaper and textiles. The frequency of these events has increased drastically in recent
years as e-cigarettes become more prevalent, mirroring a similar increase in LIB-caused fires at waste
facilities (USFA, 2017).20 Many of these non-waste e-cigarette incidents were relatively minor because
people were around to respond, but that is not always the case once LIBs get disposed and escape close
supervision.
1.5.2) Hoverboards with Counterfeit Batteries
Hoverboards are LIB-powered transportation devices that made headlines in the 2010s due to their
tendency to catch on fire. These incidents caught the attention of the Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC), a federal agency charged with protecting the public from injury or death due to
consumer products. CPSC has elevated hoverboard safety concerns to the level of other, more well-
18	The Consumer Product Safety Commission (2021) has issued a warning to discourage consumers from using
individual lithium-ion cells that have been separated from LIB packs to power e-cigarettes, as doing so can lead to
fires and their associated hazards.
19	See facility 52: Westonka Library Battery Drop-off Bin, Mound, MN
20	See Industry Experience 1 and facility 5: Shorewav Environmental Center, San Carlos, CA; and Industry
Experience 2 and facility 45: Pacific Northwest Landfill
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
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known consumer concerns: hoverboards have their own category on CPSC's website, along with other
broad categories of products like cribs, bicycles, and toys.
This elevated level of concern is due to high incidence of injuries and fatalities. There have been over
250 fires or overheating incidents involving hoverboards since 2015. CPSC estimates there have been 13
burn injuries, three smoke inhalation injuries, and more than $4 million in property damage related to
fires from hoverboard batteries. In March 2017, a 2-year-old girl and her 10-year-old sister died in a
house fire ignited by a hoverboard in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (Consumer Product Safety Commission
[CPSC], 2020). As a response to these incidents, there were 20 hoverboard recalls in 2016 and 2017.
Hoverboard fires are linked to the issue of counterfeit or poorly made LIBs. Batteries or devices
purchased online may bear a brand name but in fact be counterfeit products. These counterfeit
batteries may not be produced at the same level of quality and could pose a danger to consumers. The
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has stepped up enforcement of this issue at ports of entry, and has
seized hoverboards containing counterfeit batteries valued in the millions of dollars (U.S. Customs and
Border Patrol, 2016).
Hoverboards and counterfeit batteries can continue to pose a danger after disposal as part of waste
processing. Three incidents of waste hoverboard fires have been noted in our report, in New Jersey,
Washington, and Oregon.21 Two of these fires occurred in garbage trucks and were extinguished by local
fire departments, and the other occurred in a landfill and was extinguished by a staff member. Such
incidents illustrate how products causing fires in use can continue to cause fires in the waste
management process.
1.5.3) Lithium-ion Batteries on Planes
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has noted that LIBs pose a threat to passenger aircraft when
present in passenger luggage or cargo (Federal Aviation Administration [FAA], 2017). There have been at
least 300 incidents of fires started by lithium metal and lithium-ion batteries on planes between 2006
and 2020 (FAA, 2020). For example, a plane flying from Newark, New Jersey, to The Bahamas in early
2020 had to make an emergency landing in Florida when a passenger's external charger caught on fire
(Jones, 2020).
This problem exists in part because passenger-held Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) pose a greater
risk than the same devices do when shipped by the manufacturer. When PEDs are shipped from the
manufacturer, batteries are either not installed or are at a reduced state of charge (about 30%), and
protected from damage per DOT regulations (FAA, 2017). When passengers carry PEDs on planes, the
LIBs are installed in devices and likely highly charged, potentially with minimal protection from damage.
To counter these risks, FAA recommends that laptops should be turned off when in transport, as the risk
is greater when devices are in standby/sleep mode since the battery can overheat. FAA also requires
that spare LIBs and e-cigarettes be held in the cabin, rather than in checked bags in the cargo hold (FAA,
2016), so that if a fire occurs, it can be addressed quickly without damage to the aircraft.
LIBs can also pose a threat to cargo planes, even though batteries should theoretically be packaged
safely by the manufacturer. Some incidents have even been fatal, such as the tragic UPS cargo flight in
Dubai that crashed due to a fire believed to have been started by LIBs (Jansen, 2013).
21 See facility 29: Atlantic County Utilities Authority Truck, Brigantine, NJ: facility 34: Municipal Garbage Truck,
Bellevue, WA: and Industry Experience 2 and facility 45: Pacific Northwest Landfill
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
15

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1.5.4) Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Recall
In 2016 Samsung issued a total recall for all units of the Galaxy Note 7 in what may be the most famous
case of fires from LIBs in consumer electronics. Samsung's internal investigation of the event found that
two different faults with the phones' LIBs were to blame. First, LIBs with crimped edges allowed the
electrodes to make contact, creating a short circuit that rapidly heated up and triggered a thermal
runaway in the rest of the cell. Samsung recalled these units, but soon found that a different battery
type—used in other versions of the Note 7 and in the replacement units Samsung distributed following
the first recall—also suffered short circuits and thermal runaways caused by rough edges on the cathode
of the LIB. The recall itself was an overwhelming success, with over 96% of all phones collected (Gikas &
Beilinson, 2017), but this event illustrates the severe ignition potential of LIBs in phones and other
devices.
Making matters worse, some commentators argue that the trend toward thinner phones is driving
manufacturers to use thinner separators in their LIBs, increasing the likelihood of a separator puncture
that in turn triggers a short circuit and thermal event (Gikas & Beilinson, 2017). If this is the case,
improperly disposed LIBs in cell phones and other devices will be even more prone to ignition caused by
physical abuse as they pass through the waste system.
1.6) Existing Waste Incident Surveys
The waste industry has seen the frequency of LIB fires grow for years, but the problem has remained
largely anecdotal. To attempt to quantify the scope of this issue, some organizations have recently
conducted surveys of waste management facilities to gather data on the growing number of facility
fires. These surveys vary from targeted efforts in California, to a broad survey of North American waste
facility fires, to a 2017 effort that directly targeted MRFs. As our goal was to collect up-to-date data on
fires caused by LIBs in the waste management process using open data and news articles, our effort is
complementary to these surveys and further illustrates the growing problem of LIB fires throughout
waste management.
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
16

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1.6.1)	California Product Stewardship Council Survey
The California Product Stewardship Council is an organization that supports stronger end-of-life
management for products and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs. The group conducted
a survey in 2018 on fires at waste management facilities in California (California Product Stewardship
Council, 2018). Of the 26
surveyed waste facilities, 83%
reported having a fire at their
facility in the past two years.
Forty percent of those fires were
caused by LIBs, with another
25% sparked by other types of
batteries (figure 4). These
incidents were not reported as
being caused by LIBs to the
media according to our research,
which means that they may have
been small fires and not
newsworthy. However, surveys
of this kind shed light on a
growing problem which may not
be fully reflected by the media.
1.6.2)	Fire Rover Report
Fire Rover, a firm that produces fire prevention products, tracks the number of fires at waste and
recycling facilities across the United States and Canada and publishes their data in an annual report. The
report includes fires from sources other than LIBs but shows an alarming year-over-year increase in
waste fires. There were 343 fires reported at waste and recycling facilities in the United States and
Canada in 2019, causing 49 injuries and two deaths. This represents a 158% increase in injuries from Fire
Rover's 2018 report (Fogelman, 2020).
The report's author believes that fires are underreported, and that there were actually more than 1,800
facility fires in 2019, or five times the reported figure. He cites LIBs as one of the four causes of the
increasing number of facility fires, along with heat and dryness, the recycling export market tightening
up, and seasonal spikes (Fogelman, 2020).
1.6.3)	Resource Recycling Systems and South Bay Waste Management Authority Survey
Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) and the South Bay Waste Management Authority (SBWMA) surveyed
31 operators of 119 MRFs in 2017 across the United States. Respondents reported at least 168 fires in
the previous two years at their facilities. Lithium-based batteries were found to be the most prevalent
source of facility fires, ahead of pressurized propane, even though 83% of the surveyed facilities do not
accept material from communities that include batteries in their curbside collection. The most common
location that LIBs were reported to be found at MRFs was the tipping floor. Almost all of the operators
were concerned about this issue, with a majority reporting that they were "very concerned" (South
Bayside Waste Management Authority [SBWMA], 2017).
Sources of Fires at Waste Management Facilities





Battery

Propane cylinders
(unknown type)

20%
15%


; Other y-


^rechargeable^;
Lithium-ion batteriesM
Unknown
^ batteries Y/.
40%
15%
/ 10% g
Figure 4: Sources of Fires at California waste management facilities, according to a
2018 survey by the California Product Stewardship Council
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
17

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2) Methodology
Internet research was used to find incidents of LIB fires from news articles and waste facility websites. In
limited cases, direct outreach to members of the waste management industry and searches of internal
EPA records were used to locate additional incidents. Fires across the full spectrum of the waste
management process were included, ranging from fires in recycling bins to fires in landfills. An incident
was considered a fire if flames, smoke, or a smoldering battery were present. Incidents were only
included in the report if LIBs or lithium metal batteries were mentioned as the definite or likely cause of
the fire. Often, the exact cause of a given fire cannot be pinpointed after the incident, so fire inspectors
and facility operators use their best judgement to determine the most likely cause. According to a
landfill supervisor interviewed for this report, who has seen at least 124 LIB fires, fires described as
"likely" caused by LIBs have a very high likelihood of actually being caused by LIBs.22 Therefore, "likely"
cases were included in the report so as to not exclude fire incidents that have a very high likelihood of
being caused by LIBs. Cases were classified as likely being caused by LIBs if articles referred to LIBs with
language deeming them the "suspected" or "likely" cause of the fire.23 Incidents that were identified but
ultimately not included in the report due to missing information can be found in Appendix 1.
This methodology necessarily introduces uncertainty into the number and nature of LIB fires actually
occurring. When news articles gave a range of fire quantities at a facility, the lower end of the range was
recorded to prevent over-counting. As such, the number of fires that occurred in the included facilities
could be higher than we report. More broadly, many fires occurring at waste management facilities may
go uncounted because data reporting for such incidents is neither required nor systematic. Relying on
news sources therefore likely underestimates the number of fires that occur and may bias our results
toward more extreme cases, as incidents causing severe damage or requiring emergency response are
more likely to receive media attention. Thus, our analysis presents an illustration of the severity of the
issue of LIB fires in the waste management process rather than a rigorous quantitative analysis.
The list of incidents was then analyzed, and four common fire impacts were identified. These impacts
included "injury," "service disruption," "monetary" impacts, and "emergency response." "Injury" cases
included incidents that resulted in anyone being sent to the hospital or being medically treated at the
scene. "Service disruption" was used to indicate that waste collection or management operations were
halted for a significant period of time. When news articles stated that a facility was closed for at least a
day, a facility was destroyed, battery or recycling collection service was interrupted, or recyclables were
landfilled, this is considered a disruption of waste collection and recycling services. For instance, a MRF
that closed for a week for repairs or a battery collection program that was halted after a fire both would
be considered "service disruption" cases. This impact category also includes instances where vehicles
dumped trash in the street for the fire to be extinguished, as transportation service was interrupted
until the fire is extinguished and dumped trash could be cleaned up. Those incidents that involved
"monetary" impacts were flagged when a financial loss or hardship was caused by the fire. This could
include structural damage that required repairs, increased insurance costs, or otherwise required the
organization to spend funds that it otherwise would not have spent. Finally, cases that required
22	According to this landfill operator, instances in which an LIB was thought, but not known, to be the cause of a
fire have at least a 90% chance of truly being linked to an LIB.
23	A list of uncertainty language was compiled from all included cases categorized as likely caused by an LIB. The
terms included "likely," "expected," "assumed," "suspected," "believed," or "possible" cause of the fire, with one
additional reference to a fire that "may have been" caused by an LIB.
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
18

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firefighters, emergency medical services, police, or any other emergency personnel to respond to the
incident were marked as requiring "emergency response." Any other impacts or items of note were
recorded and are presented in the Details and Impacts columns of the tables presented in section 3.4,
Incident Tables.
Because news articles rarely provide exact information for these incidents, each incident was rated
according to the likelihood of each impact having occurred as a result of the fire.24 Incidents that likely
or explicitly caused a given impact were recorded as having suffered that impact. For instance, if an
article reported severe structural damage to a MRF but did not assign a dollar value to the damages, the
incident would be recorded as likely having a "monetary" impact and would be included in counts and
other data analysis of that impact.
Fire incidents were analyzed by the type of facility in which they occurred. This approach was selected to
mitigate the effect of missing data; often, reports of a fire at a given facility mention other LIB fires at
that location, but the impacts of the additional referenced incidents are rarely discussed. Thus, the
impacts of LIB fires were analyzed by quantifying the number and proportion of facilities that have
experienced each impact at least one time.25 Facilities were categorized as MRFs, landfills,
transportation, or other.26
Numerous representative cases were then selected for more in-depth qualitative data collection. EPA
interviewed individuals familiar with five of the facilities to gather more information and learn about
conditions on the ground at various waste management facilities. Interviews included both standardized
questions asked of each facility representative and specialized questions that were intended to reveal
greater information about the specifics of the facility or incident in question. The information gathered
through these interviews is presented in the Industry Experiences sub-section of the Results section
below.
24	Ratings were made on a scale of likelihood. Impact categories explicitly stated in the article were marked 'yes,'
while incidents that likely but not explicitly suffered an impact were marked 'likely yes.' Incidents in which an
impact was unclear, unlikely, or stated not to have occurred were marked 'unclear/ 'likely no/ and 'no'
respectively. Only 'yes' and 'likely yes' incidents were categorized as having suffered the impact.
25	Geographically separate facilities owned or operated by the same overarching entity were treated as different
facilities (e.g., Rumpke's operations in Cincinnati, Ohio and Bloomington, Indiana were treated as different
facilities). Likewise, co-located facilities of different types (e.g., Shoreway MRF and Shoreway transfer station)
were also treated as different facilities.
26	'Other' facilities included transfer stations, convenience centers, waste-to-energy plants, battery collection bins,
electronics recyclers, and scrap metal yards.
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
19

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3) Results
Quantitative data in the form of descriptive statistics are presented in the Findings and Charts section
below. Trends in the reported impacts of the fires are then discussed in the Impacts section, after which
qualitative information from industry interviews is presented in the Industry Experiences section.
However, it should be noted that the collected data are neither a random sample nor a complete count
of the myriad of LIB-related fire incidents at waste facilities across the United States between 2013 and
2020. Thus, these results illustrate the scope and intensity of this problem, but do not constitute a full
accounting of recent LIB-linked fires in the nation's waste systems.
3.1) Findings and Charts
The research methodology uncovered 245 fires associated with LIBs at 64 waste management facilities.
The most common facility category was MRFs (23), followed by transport facilities (13), then landfills
(10). LIB fires were also recorded at 18 other facilities, including scrap yards, electronics recyclers, and
WTE plants. Of the 64 total facilities covered by this report, 17 (27%) reported more than one LIB fire in
recent years. However, it should be noted that stakeholder interviews (see section 3.3, Industry
Experiences) and anecdotal evidence indicate that LIB-caused fires in the waste management process
are severely underreported; therefore, both the frequency of LIB fires and the number of facilities
affected by them are likely much higher.
Of the 245 fires recorded here, 68 took place at MRFs, 139 at landfills, 15 in transport, and 23 at other
facilities. Most of these fires (89%) were definitely caused by LIBs, while the remainder were reported as
likely caused by an LIB. The most common LIBs noted as the cause of fires were cell phone batteries,
followed by tablet and laptop batteries. However, LIB fires often burn the battery beyond recognition,
so most fires caused by LIBs in this report do not have a specific battery type noted. In these cases, the
recovered battery may have been too charred to make determining a specific type possible, or a battery
may not have been recovered at all, and a fire professional may have determined that the fire was
caused by an LIB based on their expertise and prior experience.
Both the number of facilities affected and number of fires have increased dramatically in recent years,
growing from only two fires being reported at a single facility in 2013 to 65 fires reported across 16
different facilities in 2020 (figure 5).
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Fires and Facilities Affected by Year
¦ Fires
Facilities Affected
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Year
Figure 5: Facilities affected and number of fires by year
Much of this growth in incidents appears to have occurred at landfills and MRFs, though our data
collection methodology may skew this result.27 Regardless, all four facility types saw an increase in the
number of facilities affected between 2013 and 2020 (figure 6). Affected facilities were located in 28
different states spread across the country, reflecting the nationwide impact of this issue (figure 7).
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
Type of Facility Affected by Year
I Landfill MRF
3Transport ~ Other
i i
I
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Year
2020
Figure 6: Fires by year and facility category
27 These data may seem to imply that fires occur more frequently at MRFs and landfills than at other waste
management facilities, but this trend results at least partially from our mixed data collection methods. In addition
to compiling cases from news sources, we used data from one MRF and one landfill that kept detailed records of
the LIB fires they experienced over numerous years. Thus, LIB fires at these types of facilities are overrepresented
relative to the number of unique facilities.
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
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Locations of LIB-Caused Fires in the Waste Stream,
2013-2020
1*
* ^ r -
%

x a
* x -w m
X
_ ' W
m
l dm
Bf © OpenStreetMap contributors
£ MRF ^ Landfill	Transport	Other
Created with Datawrapper
Figure 7: Locations of LIB-caused fires across the United States, 2013-2020
Although we know the location where fires occurred, the data do not include the origin of the discarded
LIBs. We do not know in detail which fires were started by batteries discarded at homes, or at
workplaces such as offices or hospitals. Most of the facilities and organizations that suffered fires
receive waste from multiple sources, such as the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY). DSNY
collects waste from a variety of sources in New York City, including residential MSW and institutional
waste (New York Department of Sanitation, n.d.). Therefore, it is difficult to establish if the LIB that
started a fire in a DSNY garbage truck was disposed in household waste or institutional waste, e.g., from
a public school.28 Additional information on the source of waste batteries could help establish the root
cause of this issue, so future research in this area would be useful. However, our findings do show that
most battery fires originated from LIBs collected from waste streams that include MSW. Household
batteries are part of MSW, so it is likely that many of these fires started from a household battery that
was improperly discarded. Additionally, many of the existing efforts to address this problem have
focused on consumer education,29 reflecting a general sentiment in the industry that many LIBs entering
the waste management system originate from households.
28	See facility 30: DSNY Truck, New York, NY
29	See, e.g., Industry Experience 3 and facility 6: Larimer County Landfill's Recycling Center, Fort Collins, CO
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
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3.2) Impacts
The cases included in this report illustrate the most common outcomes caused by LIBs at waste
management facilities: injury, service disruption, monetary impacts, and emergency response. LIB-
caused fires also have the potential to lead to many other impacts. Most news articles did not go into
this level of detail, but LIB fires could ruin the recycling potential for batteries, paper, and plastics if
material is scorched or saturated with water and foam, and could lead to increased carbon dioxide,
particulate matter, or dioxin emissions (EPA, 2020a).
Every category of facility included in this report has experienced these four main impacts, but at
different scales (figure 8). The most common impact was emergency response: 42 (66%) facilities where
LIB-related fires occurred called emergency services at least once. MRFs most frequently required the
assistance of fire departments or other first responders. In contrast, landfills rarely required external
help with their LIB fires; staff members were generally able to extinguish the fires on their own. Service
disruption and monetary impacts were both fairly frequent outcomes of an LIB fire, with 17 (27%)
facilities experiencing the former and 19 (30%) experiencing the latter at least once. Seven facilities
(11%) experienced at least one injury as the result of an LIB fire. Across the board, MRFs appear to be
the most dramatically affected type of facility, as they experienced the highest amount of impacts.
Type of Facility Affected by Impact Category
40
30
20
10
~ Other
¦	Transport
MRF
¦	Landfill
Injury	Service	Monetary	Emergency
Disruption	Response
Impact Category
Figure 8: Fire impacts by facility type
However, this trend may be a result of the frequency with which MRFs experience LIB fires rather than a
reflection of elevated risk at MRFs compared to other waste processing facilities. Regardless of the type
of facility, a large proportion of most facilities affected by LIB fires have experienced many of the
impacts considered. For instance, more than three quarters of LIB fires required assistance from
emergency responders for both the MRFs and transportation facilities included in this report. In general,
a large proportion of facilities that have experienced an LIB fire have experienced at least one of the
negative impacts of these fires, though landfills seem to be more resilient than other waste
management facilities (figure 9). This apparent trend may reflect the unique context of landfills. Landfill
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
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fires are relatively common occurrences but do not often make the news, as they are usually small and
regularly handled by staff rather than local fire departments. Landfills are also not located inside a
structure, so the scope of property damage from a fire would be different than at an enclosed MRF.
Percent of Facilities that Have Experienced Impacts
80%
78%
77%
¦ Injury
Service Disruption
B Monetary
~ Emergency Response
60%
56%
43%
39%
40%
40%
22%
20% ¦
0%
MRF
Transport
Other
Landfill
Type of Facility
Figure 9: Percent of facilities that have experienced impacts
While not comprehensive, these data are illustrative because incidents at facilities that create major
negative effects (e.g., millions of dollars of damage or terminated collection programs) are more likely to
be covered by the media and therefore more likely to have been included in this report due to our
methodology. However, the large number of LIB fires at waste facilities and widespread negative
impacts revealed by this report's simple methodology indicate that LIBs that are discarded either
through normal curbside trash, recycling, or dumpsters present a significant and growing threat that can
be broken into four main categories.
3.2.1) Injury
Fires in the waste management process can quickly grow and become dangerous with high heat and
smoke conditions, threatening the safety of firefighters, facility workers, and bystanders. Any fire has
the potential to grow unsafe, and fires occurring during waste processing pose unique safety hazards.
Many waste facilities are filled with materials with high heat value (like paper products or plastic
recyclables), making them highly combustible and likely to burn aggressively. Landfills may have natural
gas collection systems that are prone to ignition or explosion if they are directly impacted by a fire—a
serious hazard for responding personnel. Fires that ignite while waste is in transit can also present
unique hazards for first responders, as they may occur along busy roadways or in other high-traffic
locations. It is due to the quick work of firefighters and facility staff that there were not more injuries
caused by the 245 fires.
We found seven facilities where injuries were caused by fires: five MRFs, one garbage truck, and one
other facility (a dedicated battery recycling operation). Firefighters and staff were treated for chemical
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
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burns,30 smoke inhalation,31 heat exhaustion,32 and other minor injuries33 due to these LIB fires, either
on site or at hospitals. There were no injuries found resulting from LIB fires at landfills.
The research also found numerous incidents that were close calls and could have resulted in injuries to
firefighters, bystanders, or facility workers. For instance, a train carrying LIBs exploded in Houston,
Texas, with enough force to destroy windows in the surrounding buildings and caused a local resident to
be thrown up against the side of his house.34 No bystanders were seriously injured in this incident, but
the event could have been much worse. Electronics recyclers have also reported close calls with LIB fires
to the media, such as when an iPad battery exploded while being disassembled at an electronics recycler
in Wisconsin.35 No employees were injured, but the area had to be evacuated. Such events are not
uncommon. One out of every 3,000 mobile device batteries that this facility handles experiences a
thermal event (Fowler, 2018).
Another potential risk of injury arises from exacerbated occupational hazards. For instance, landfill
employees face an inherent danger in exiting a vehicle on top of active landfill cells. When there is a fire
in the landfill, such as any of the dozens catalogued in the Pacific Northwest landfill cases,36 employees
are at risk of injury when they exit their vehicles to extinguish the fires. Similarly, MRF employees may
be exposed to increased risks of slips, trips, and falls when evacuating the facility during an LIB fire.
3.2.2) Service Disruption
Facility fires can also lead to disruptions in waste and recycling collection services. When a fire starts,
the waste processing stops until the fire is extinguished either by firefighters or staff, and services can
remain stalled for a long time. The duration of a service disruption is usually proportional to the severity
of the fire, but even small fires can cause services to be temporarily interrupted.37 Service interruptions
can lead to material either being landfilled, incinerated, or stored until service is restored. Typically,
both the fire and firefighting tactics will damage the recyclable material present in a facility during a fire,
as occurred in Fort Hood, Texas.38 This fire damaged thousands of pounds of recyclables located at the
MRF and caused twenty dumpsters filled with damaged recyclables to be landfilled. For longer service
interruptions, even more material will be diverted from recycling. Such an interruption happened at a
transfer station in Clearwater, Florida, when recyclable material was temporarily sent to a waste-to-
energy plant after a fire interrupted facility service.39
LIB fires can also lead to facilities ending battery collection programs, depriving consumers of access to
convenient waste collection services and causing environmental damage. In this case, LIBs may be
landfilled or improperly recycled, propagating the cycle of negative effects from improper LIB disposal.
30	See facility 2: Friedman Recycling, Tucson, AZ; and facility 57: Inmetco, Ellwood City, PA
31	See Industry Experience 1 and facility 5: Shorewav Environmental Center, San Carlos, CA; and Industry
Experience 3 and facility 6: Larimer County Landfill's Recycling Center, Fort Collins, CO
32	See facility 22: John's Disposal, Norway, Wl
33	See facility 15: Royal Waste Services, Queens, NY: and facility 26: Sunview Logistics Truck, Livingston County, Ml
34	See facility 33: Union Pacific Train, Houston, TX
35	See facility 64: Cascade Asset Management, Madison, Wl
36	See Industry Experience 2 and facility 45: Pacific Northwest Landfill
37	See facility 35: Waste Connections Truck, Washougal, WA
38	See facility 19: Fort Hood Recycle, Fort Hood, TX
39	See facility 48: Ybor City Waste Management Transfer Station, Tampa, FL
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As a result of a large fire in an Urbana, Illinois, MRF that destroyed one of the facility's buildings, the
facility ended its collection of LIBs.40 Likewise, a dedicated battery drop-off program in Minnesota
discussed earlier had to be halted after an e-cigarette's LIB started a fire in a battery collection bin
located in a local library.41
Large fires can lead to temporary, or even permanent facility closure. This means that some recyclable
material could be landfilled. If local agencies can find other facilities willing to accept the stranded
recyclables, these other MRFs could be overloaded, which could lead to more fires. For example, a
recycling facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, was destroyed after a fire, and the town sent its recyclable
material to the local landfill until another MRF agreed to take over the town's recycling service.42 In
other instances when alternative MRFs can be located, travel distance for collected materials is likely to
increase, to the detriment of both quality of life and environmental health of the surrounding
communities. More miles for garbage trucks results in increased road usage and congestion for nearby
drivers and increased air pollution emissions and road hazards for pedestrians.
Services can also be disrupted by LIB fires during the transportation of waste. When a fire breaks out on
a garbage truck, the driver is often forced to empty their vehicle's contents onto the roadway so the fire
can be extinguished by firefighters. This situation not only creates hazards for first responders and
pedestrians, but also disrupts the garbage collection route, as happened when a garbage truck's load
caught fire in Bellevue, Washington (figure 10).43
Figure 10: Photo of the aftermath of an LIB fire in a garbage truck. An LIB fire in a garbage truck forced the driver to
empty garbage onto the street to be extinguished, disrupting service for customers and creating a traffic hazard for
community members and first responders. Photo courtesy of Bellevue Police Department.
3.2.3) Monetary Impacts
Fires caused by LIBs at waste facilities also can have significant monetary impacts for both the owners
and the employees of waste facilities. Most immediately, these fires can cause damage to structures and
40	See facility 8: Mack's Twin City Recycling. Urbana, IL
41	See facility 52: Westonka Library Battery Drop-off Bin, Mound. MN
42	See Facility 3: Republic Services MRF Located at Salt River Landfill, Scottsdale, AZ
43	See facility 34: Municipal Garbage Truck, Bellevue, WA
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expensive equipment such as sorting machines, bulldozers, or garbage trucks. The largest LIB fires have
caused entire facilities to be burned to the ground, requiring millions in repair or replacement costs.
After a MRF in Piano, Texas, was destroyed by a fire likely started by an LIB in 2016,44 a replacement
facility costing $30 million opened in 2019 (Pyzyk, 2019). Other fires have also caused structural
damages to MRFs totaling in the millions, such as those that occurred at the Shoreway facility in San
Carlos, California, and the Dem-Con facility in Blaine, Minnesota.45 Many news articles do not list the
monetary value of damages, but some fires have caused substantial cost. For instance, incidents at a
MRF in New York and a battery recycler in Pennsylvania caused such costly damage that the facilities
were declared total losses.46 Beyond the damage done by the flames, waste facility fires can also leave
behind soot residues that further corrode equipment if not cleaned up thoroughly.47 The direct financial
impacts of an incident could extend to the workers at the facility and their families as well, as they may
have to be furloughed or laid off entirely if the facility closes for repairs—or for good.
LIB fires also have indirect financial implications, particularly through increases in the cost of the
insurance that many facilities carry. When the number of discarded LIBs increases, the likelihood of a
fire increases, in turn making damage more likely. Insurers offering coverage to waste facilities may
reasonably estimate a high risk of a severe fire breaking out, leading them to pass the financial burden
of that danger to their customers. Multiple MRF operators consulted for this report indicated that their
insurance premiums and deductibles have increased in recent years.48 Not only are prices increasing,
but insurers are leaving the market, making it more difficult for MRFs to get insurance. The industry,
which had almost 50 insurance options as little as three years ago, now has fewer than 10 (Fogelman,
2020). This trend will likely continue if fires continue to increase. For example, after the fire at their
MRF, Shoreway now relies on seven separate policies because no single insurer is willing to bear the
risk.49 One MRF operator consulted called this "the existential threat" to the recycling industry.50
In municipalities where the waste system is publicly owned and operated, the local government may
self-insure their waste facilities.51 However, municipalities taking this tack must consider what a total
loss could mean for them. Setting aside another reserve of funds to self-insure again after a fire would
be a major financial burden to state and local governments that are already facing significant funding
shortfalls in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic (Auerbach et al., 2020).
Strategies exist to combat this threat, but they may not be enough to solve the problem. Some waste
facilities may try to prevent insurance rate increases by investing in prevention measures like automated
fire suppression systems or employee safety training.52 However, these efforts constitute a major outlay
44	See facility 20: Republic Services Recycling Center, Piano, TX
45	See Industry Experience 1 and facility 5: Shoreway Environmental Center, San Carlos, CA; and facility 13: Dem-
Con Recycling Facility, Blaine, MN
46	See facility 16: Taylor Garbage, Apalachin, NY: and facility 57: Inmetco, Ellwood City, PA
47	See facility 5: Shoreway Environmental Center, San Carlos, CA
48	See Industry Experience 1 and facility 5: Shoreway Environmental Center, San Carlos, CA: and Industry
Experience 4 and facility 17: Rumpke Waste & Recycling, Cincinnati, OH
49	See Industry Experience 1 and facility 5: Shoreway Environmental Center, San Carlos, CA
50	See Industry Experience 1 and facility 5: Shoreway Environmental Center, San Carlos, CA
51	See Industry Experience 3 and facility 6: Larimer County Landfill's Recycling Center, Fort Collins, CO
52	See Industry Experience 1 and facility 5: Shoreway Environmental Center, San Carlos,: and Industry Experience 4
and facility 17: Rumpke Waste & Recycling, Cincinnati, OH
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for the facility—shifting where monetary expenditures occur rather than preventing monetary impacts
entirely.
All these increased costs could also impact average households' expenses. As the ultimate consumers of
waste services, American families may well face higher prices for their waste collection and
management as a result of these fires. Between surging insurance prices, increased risks to self-insured
systems, and the destabilized recycled commodities market (Katz, 2019), operators of waste facilities
may have to raise their rates to continue functioning profitably. This could leave Americans stuck with
the bill for addressing the myriad issues created by LIBs inappropriately entering the municipal waste
management process.
3.2.4) Emergency Response
Firefighters and other emergency responders expend valuable time and resources fighting LIB fires,
potentially limiting their ability to respond to other emergencies. Some LIB fires are so large that scores
of firefighters are required, such as the three documented incidents in which 100 or more firefighters
responded.53 This pressure could, in turn, strain agency budgets, as departments seek to obtain the
resources needed to protect valuable but potentially high-risk facilities like MRFs.
LIB fires may also behave unusually, which may require more time and resources spent on training by
fire departments. For example, firefighters in California extinguished a fire in a Tesla electric vehicle,
only for the fire to reignite once the vehicle was brought to a scrap yard.54
In this report, emergency response was the only impact seen at every type of facility. This was also the
most common of the four impacts, with 42 of 64 facilities having relied on external response for their
fires at least once.
3.3) Industry Experiences
Facility operators and other industry experts were interviewed to get a more in-depth view of this
problem. Twelve facilities were contacted and five responded, representing three MRFs, one landfill,
and one scrap metal yard. The following sections are summaries of conversations held with
representatives of these facilities. Almost every facility representative mentioned that the problem was
getting worse in their industry and that other waste management facilities likely see LIB fires to a similar
degree. These industry experiences help provide more detail on the scope of the LIB problem at end of
life.
3.3.1) Industry Experience 1: Shoreway Environmental Center, San Carlos, California
Shoreway Environmental Center is a large MRF located in the Bay Area of California and operated by
RethinkWaste, a joint agency of numerous local waste management authorities. The facility handles
80,000 tons of commingled recyclables per year using highly mechanized processes. Both storage and
processing of the collected items occur on site, creating a large stockpile of material that could act as
fuel if a fire breaks out. Shoreway employs around 100 workers, with 50 to 60 employees being present
in the facility at any given time.
53	See facility 2: Friedman Recycling, Tucson, AZ; Industry Experience 1 and facility 5: Shoreway Environmental
Center, San Carlos, CA; and facility 15: Royal Waste Services, Queens, NY
54	See marginal case 4 (Appendix 1)
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The Shoreway facility experienced a devastating fire in September 2016 that is thought to have been
caused by an LIB. The incident is believed to have started when processing machinery crushed an LIB
and it ignited, setting fire to nearby paper recycling materials. As the nascent fire spread through the
facility along a conveyor belt, employees initially attempted to extinguish the blaze; when these efforts
failed, the facility was evacuated. Despite employees' efforts to halt the fire's spread by shutting down
the conveyor belt, flames moved through the facility. The four-alarm fire damaged machinery and
structures. Fortunately, Shoreway had installed a fire mitigation device comprised of heat-activated
ceiling vents. When triggered by the fire, these vents opened to create a chimney-like effect that was
designed to limit the fire's horizontal spread. Eventually, the blaze was extinguished by numerous local
fire departments.
This incident illustrates many of the common impacts caused by LIB-ignited fires at waste facilities. The
fire required significant involvement from external emergency responders, as about 100 firefighters
were called to the scene. In the aftermath of the blaze, RethinkWaste was forced to close the Shoreway
facility for repairs, burdening the rest of the area's waste management system as recycled materials had
to be rerouted to three different facilities. Finding MRFs to pick up the excess recyclable materials was
particularly difficult, as Shoreway accepts commingled materials that other recycling facilities do not.
These disruptions were limited in duration because the facility was able to reopen some months later,
but they could have lasted three to four years if the structure had been destroyed completely.
The most dramatic impacts of the event, however, were the monetary repercussions caused by the fire
damage and subsequent facility closure. The fire itself racked up $8.5 million in damages as it tore
through the facility's structures and processing and support equipment. These initial damages were
subsequently compounded by soot residues and their corrosive effect on equipment. Replacing this
equipment and repairing the building, which luckily remained structurally sound, required large outlays
from RethinkWaste. RethinkWaste was also forced to furlough 50 employees while the plant was closed,
potentially creating financial hardship for these individuals and their families.
The facility experienced monetary losses that extended beyond the direct costs of damages. After the
fire, Shoreway was dropped by its previous insurer; in looking for a replacement, RethinkWaste learned
that dozens of likely candidates opted not to bid for the contract. The agency now relies on seven
different insurance sources because no one individual firm would take on the risk. Insurance costs
skyrocketed as well, reflecting this hesitancy. RethinkWaste's annual insurance premium increased six-
fold after the fire, while their required deductible rose by nearly 300-fold—and their leadership fears
these rates may continue to rise. This deductible spike effectively forces RethinkWaste to partially self-
insure the Shoreway plant, leading them to keep over $1 million extra in their reserves in case of a
similar emergency in the future.
In addition to holding these funds in reserve, RethinkWaste has responded to the growing threat of
improperly discarded LIBs through strategic changes in operations. They now undertake extensive
emergency response training with the contractor operating the facility. Employees have also developed
a set procedure for dealing with ignited LIBs, involving removing the LIB and surrounding materials from
the waste pile, retrieving the battery, placing it in a barrel filled with sand or another neutralizing
material, and leaving it to burn itself out. Operators no longer rely on trying to quench these fires, as
they have found the tactic often fails to suppress the fire or allows the LIB to reignite.
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RethinkWaste has also applied technological advancements to address this growing issue. After the fire,
they installed countermeasures at Shoreway that they say "wildly exceed" minimum standards set by
the relevant fire codes. These tools include sprinklers installed over all major equipment, an increased
number of high-powered hoses, and heat-activated ceiling vents, which they credit for saving the
structure from being completely engulfed in the fire.
RethinkWaste has also become an advocate for policy-based solutions. They support California
legislation that they believe will increase producer responsibility for LIBs at end of life (the "take back
bill"). This bill seeks to establish a drop-off program at the point of purchase and set up a dedicated
process for handling collected batteries. The agency is also an active participant in industry groups like
the Solid Waste Association of North America, and it now partners with non-profits and advocacy groups
that share similar concerns about LIBs in the waste management process.
RethinkWaste's unfortunate experience in 2016 serves as a potent illustration of the severe damage
that a single LIB tossed in a household recycling bin can create, though it was far from a worst-case
scenario. The Shoreway facility is large, but not nearly the largest MRF in the United States; one listing of
the largest North American recycling facilities in 2019 does not even rank Shoreway in the top 75 (Toto,
2019). Further, RethinkWaste's leadership indicated that the region they serve tends to be well-
informed about waste issues, so they likely receive fewer batteries per ton of material than the average
MRF. Taken together, these indicators imply that this issue could be an even greater threat in other
scenarios, like at larger MRFs or in regions with residents who are not as well informed on waste
management and recycling issues.
3.3.2) Industry Experience 2: Landfill in the Pacific Northwest
One Pacific Northwest landfill has seen 124 LIB fires in the past three years.55 According to the landfill
supervisor, LIBs were not a problem 10-15 years ago, when they were less common in consumer
products. As LIBs grew in popularity, the landfill started seeing more fires caused by these batteries.
Although LIBs are now widespread, many consumers do not realize the difficulty that LIB fires pose to
landfills and continue to discard batteries in the trash.
On June 12, 2017, the landfill supervisor started tracking every fire caused by LIBs in the landfill. Every
time an employee pulled a smoldering LIB out of the landfill, he kept a meticulous record of the date,
and if the battery had not been burned past recognition, the source of the battery (tablets, cell phones,
etc.). These LIB fires have increased over time, from 21 in 2018 to 47 in 2020.
The most common sources of LIBs that caught fire were cell phones (17), followed by tablets (6) and
laptops (6). Although all the recorded fires were definitely caused by LIBs, the specific type of battery
was often hard to ascertain, with most fires (91) caused by LIBs from unknown sources. When a battery
burns for too long, it can become charred enough that it is impossible to determine what type of device
it originated from.
Most fires caused by LIBs at this facility occur on the surface of the landfill. This means the fires are
often easy to spot, and employees usually tackle them right away, according to the following protocol.
55 The landfill supervisor who provided data for this facility requested that the facility remain anonymous, given
negative public perceptions regarding landfill fires. We believe that the public benefit of including the detailed data
this landfill provided justifies withholding the name of the landfill.
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First, the facility ensures every vehicle that goes out onto the landfill has a fire extinguisher. When a fire
starts, a worker douses the area, recovers the device, puts it in a steel bucket, and sends the LIB to a
hazardous waste facility.
When this protocol is followed, battery fires at the landfill remain small and manageable—as long as
they start within business hours when an employee is present. However, at night, fires have the chance
to grow large beyond the surveillance of landfill employees. The facility had two such larger fires in May
2019 and May 2020 during off hours and required the help of the local fire department.
The operator has gone beyond only tracking incidents and now also educates consumers about the
dangers of LIBs. Occasionally, large quantities of returned electronics from retail stores end up at the
landfill. These goods cannot be sold, and store owners incorrectly believe that electronics with batteries
can be thrown away in the trash. When this occurs, the landfill supervisor reminds stores that these
items should not be discarded with their batteries inside. He has also educated the public by
participating in local radio and TV news segments, where he explains the different types of batteries and
the damage they can cause to a landfill. He hopes that getting the word out on LIBs will reduce the
amount of fires at landfills and other waste management facilities.
Fires have become commonplace at this facility, and the operator assumes other landfills are most likely
seeing the same frequency of fires. However, LIB fires are often small and go unreported, like other
small fires at landfills. They are routine and not newsworthy, as they are easy to put out if noticed
immediately. This attribute of LIB fires contributes to the lack of publicly available information on landfill
fires in news reports.
3.3.3) Industry Experience 3: Larimer County Landfill's Recycling Center, Fort Collins, Colorado
In August 2018, a fire broke out at a recycling facility in Larimer County, Colorado, that fire inspectors
believe was ignited by an LIB. Fortunately for the facility, an experienced operator noticed the fire and
used processing equipment to move the burning pile of recyclables outside the facility.
This quick thinking likely saved Larimer County from experiencing many of the detrimental effects often
caused by LIB-induced fires. The fire department arrived and was able to subdue the blaze outside the
building, saving the valuable equipment inside and sparing the structure from damage (figure 11). In
fact, the fire department indicated that the entire facility likely would have been lost if not for the quick
response by the operator. The facility also didn't see any increased insurance rates from this fire: it is
self-insured by the county.
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Figure 11: Photo of firefighters battling the Larimer County LIB fire. Firefighters hosing down the Larimer County LIB fire
after the combusted pile of recyclables was moved outside by a MRF operator. Photo courtesy of Larimer County Solid
Waste Department.
The fire did result in some undesirable outcomes, though they were mitigated. Multiple employees were
treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, but fortunately none had to be hospitalized. Additionally, the
facility was forced to shut down for the remainder of the day, temporarily disrupting the county's
recycling collection services.
Since the 2018 blaze, Larimer County has experienced numerous fires at their various waste and
recycling facilities, often due to LIBs. A representative from the county indicated that they feel the
frequency of such fires has been increasing to the point that their landfill sees multiple fires per week
and their recycling facility experiences a few per month. Furthermore, the county's Solid Waste
Department staff fear that this issue, and the threats associated with it, will intensify as the county plans
to close their landfill and transition to using a transfer station. There, processing conditions may
increase the frequency of fires while the facility's characteristics (i.e., being inside a structure) may
exacerbate the negative impacts if one of these fires gets out of control.
Between the near miss of the 2018 fire and the general trend of increasing risk, Larimer County decided
to adopt a multifaceted consumer education campaign to respond to the threat of LIB-caused fires in
their facilities. Their response, a battery safety campaign, focuses on raising the community's awareness
about the importance of properly disposing of batteries of all types. In late 2020, the county Solid Waste
Department invited high school- and college-age graphic design students to submit potential designs for
the graphic component of the campaign's promotional and informational materials. This contest was
intended to get younger generations involved in the issue and create a vested interest in addressing it.
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Likewise, Larimer County is working with a student intern to develop an educational presentation and
video for the county's website. The battery safety campaign has also developed a QR code that leads to
their battery safety webpage. Larimer County has already targeted distribution of their educational
messaging to battery retailers and e-cigarette stores in the hopes of educating consumers about proper
disposal methods once LIBs and LIB-containing products reach end of life. Given the increasing
prevalence of vaping and the frequency with which e-cigarette batteries enter the waste management
process, the county adopted this approach to target their outreach and maximize the effect of their
limited educational resources. They have also compiled a series of resources, called the Be Alert
Campaign Toolkit, that other municipalities facing these problems can use.
The ultimate success of Larimer County's efforts is as of yet unknown, but their experiences overall
illustrate the challenges that local waste management authorities are facing and the innovative
strategies some of them are adopting to attempt to combat this nationwide issue.
3.3.4) Industry Experience 4: Rumpke Waste & Recycling, Cincinnati, Ohio
In conversation with the waste management firm Rumpke, representatives indicated that their
organization has experienced many fire incidents like the ones presented in this report. Speaking from
their industry experience, they shared how garbage truck loads can ignite when LIBs are crushed by the
compacting machinery. In these cases, the increased airflow from the truck driving down the road then
fans the flames and creates additional risk. Likewise, Rumpke representatives indicated that fires
happen "all the time" at their MRFs, though it is often challenging to determine the exact cause of each
fire. Preliminary data and anecdotal operator experiences indicate these fires are often tied to LIBs.56
When fires occur, Rumpke facilities encounter many of the same impacts featured throughout this
report. Rumpke drivers always call the fire department when fires break out on their collection routes.
When vehicle fires cause drivers to dump their truck's material for safety reasons, service can be
disrupted as other trucks are rerouted to cover the interrupted routes. Likewise, when MRF fires are
extinguished with water or foam, the doused recyclables must be sent to the landfill for disposal, driving
down recycling rates.
From a monetary standpoint, each fire incident detrimentally affects the company's bottom line. A
Rumpke truck has not been destroyed by any LIB-caused fires to date, but a total loss of a garbage truck
would cost the company an estimated $250,000. Smaller costs can also stack up when a garbage truck
experiences a fire, from the cost of cleaning up the site to the cost of repairing any mechanical or
cosmetic damage caused by the event. Rumpke's MRFs are also experiencing monetary pressures, as
insurance becomes harder to obtain and the company is forced to invest more resources in fire
suppression systems, alarms, and emergency training for operators.
Rumpke has responded to these threats operationally, at both its MRFs and collection fleet. Truck
drivers are instructed to perform a "visual audit" of the waste they pick up and notify customers who
dispose of flammable materials like LIBs improperly. Meanwhile, at MRFs, ignited LIBs are removed from
the conveyor belt with tongs, placed in a bucket filled with sand, and left outside for 24 hours to burn
56 The data collected in this report (see section 3.1, Findings and Charts) and other data from surveys of California
waste management facilities, Fire Rover, and RethinkWaste have all provided evidence of this correlation
(California Product Stewardship Council, 2018; Fogelman, 2020; SBWMA, 2017). See also Industry Experience 2 and
facility 45: Pacific Northwest Landfill
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
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themselves out. Rumpke's representatives indicated that their employees have become used to and
adept at dealing with these fires because they occur so frequently, though they are often caught in the
early stages while the flames are small or the battery is only smoldering. For fires on the tipping floor
(where waste is initially deposited at the facility), Rumpke has invested in water cannons to inundate
nascent fires. Employees also experience on-the-job training via walk throughs of the facility that allow
operators to stay up to date on emerging issues and address any problems early, before they become
exacerbated.
Rumpke also supports public awareness as a solution to municipal waste fires. In addition to
encouraging drivers to leave informative notes for customers who improperly dispose of ignitable
wastes, the company sends targeted letters to geographic trouble areas when they notice routes with
particularly high levels of inappropriately discarded materials. Rumpke facilities also host tours to inform
the public about the waste system, and their representatives report that they have seen increasing
levels of interest in and awareness of waste management issues. In the rare occurrences when fires in
their trucks or at their facilities garner media attention, Rumpke tries to use the situation as a teaching
opportunity to raise public awareness.
Although these events are becoming frequent, media attention is inconsistent, indicating that the
problem is likely much larger than it initially appears. Rumpke's representatives indicated that media
attention to fires depends heavily on where they occur and the amount of other news to cover on any
given day. While large fires may attract the attention of local media, most incidents garner no coverage
whatsoever. Considering that most fires occur at MRFs or landfills—locations not frequently considered
in most people's day-to-day life—these fires frequently go under- or un-reported by the media.
3.3.5) Industry Experience 5: Pacific Coast Shredding, Vancouver, Washington
A scrap metal yard outside of Portland, Oregon, does not accept LIBs, but this doesn't mean that the
batteries do not get into the facility. According to the operations manager of Pacific Coast
Shredding, LIBs are a big problem in the management and processing of scrap metal. The facility has
seen multiple incidents start due to improperly disposed LIBs.
LIB fires at this facility occur about once every other month and start most often in or near the shredder.
Fires can also start on the concrete tipping floor, in piles of materials. The causes are often small LIB-
powered devices like laptops. Fires are small enough that staff can usually isolate the item before the
fire spreads, as long as the device is accessible in the pile.
The facility has experienced two recent fires assumed to be caused by LIBs. One fire in October of 2020
started in a big box of scrap metal. The manager assumed it was caused by a battery based on his prior
experience with fires. An employee saw the smoke while operating a mobile shearer unit and drove over
to investigate the incident. The fire was small enough for the employee to extinguish, and the fire
department was not needed.
Another fire started in the facility's automobile shredder in 2019. A car caught on fire when it went
through the shredder and was put out by the local fire department. A definite cause was not found, but
it was suspected to be caused by an LIB. The fire resulted in monetary impacts of $20,000 in building
damages and increased insurance rates. The fire also interrupted the shedder's service, as it took the
facility down for a day. The building has since been rebuilt to be more fire-resilient, using steel and
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
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concrete. The building is also now cleaned out each evening to prevent fires from starting inside at
night.
The LIB problem is not limited to this single scrap metal facility: when interviewed, the operations
manager stated that any scrap yard with a shredder has certainly seen LIB fires. The operations manager
also stated a desire to see something done about this problem. For example, batteries could be labelled
so they could be better spotted on the belt. Current labelling does not provide such instant
recognizability, but if LIBs were bright yellow, as he suggested, more of them may potentially be spotted
before being crushed.
3.4) Incident Tables
This section contains the comprehensive results of this damage case research effort, grouped by the
type of facility and ordered alphabetically by state abbreviation. The incident tables contain information
about each incident including the facility name, location, date of fire(s), whether the fire was definitely
or likely caused by an LIB, quantity of fires, and a "details and impacts" column with more information.
Impacts are broken down into four categories: injury, external response, service disruption, and
monetary losses, as represented by the icons shown below in the key. Icons are shown in the chart if an
impact occurred or likely occurred. Incidents with no or unknown impacts are noted as such.
Key
Impacts
Impact Icons
Impact Detail
Injury
A
Incidents that resulted in anyone being sent to the hospital or
being medically treated at the scene.
External Response
A
Any response by firefighters, emergency medical services,
police, or other emergency personnel to the incident.
Service Disruption
A
Waste collection or management operations being halted for
any significant period of time due to the incident.
Monetary Impacts
©
Any financial loss or hardship caused by the incident, including
structural damage that required repairs, increased insurance
costs, etc.
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3.4.1) Materials Recovery Facilities
Waste Management Little Rock Recovery Facility, Little Rock, AR
1
12/19/2016
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
LIB was wrapped up in plastic bags that were
tied up in the sorting equipment. Staff was able
to extinguish the fire, and damage is unknown
(Waste Management urges public to 'recycle
right', 2016).
Fire Count
1
Friedman Recycling, Tucson, AZ
2
5/21/2018
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
ft A©

Battery Type
Unknown LIB
About 100 firefighters were called to the scene
of this fire, which spread quickly through a pile
of cardboard and grew large due to high winds.
One firefighter was taken to the hospital and
three were evaluated at the scene for heat
exhaustion (3-alarm fire at recycling plant,
2018; Greaber 6t Smith, 2018).
Fire Count
1
Republic Services MRF Located at Salt River Landfill, Scottsdale, AZ
3
10/19/2019
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:
©

Battery Type
Unknown LIB
The fire burned for over a day and destroyed the
facility, which caused the town of Fountain
Hills, AZ, to suspend its recycling program.
Recyclable material was taken to a landfill
temporarily until the town found another MRF.
The fire was so large that a nearby highway
closed for several hours (Republic halts
recycling after fire, 2019; Stone, 2019).
Fire Count
1
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Marin Recycling Center, San Rafael, CA
4
9/17/2018
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Cell phone battery
A large fire started during working hours and
was extinguished by the local fire department.
The cause was determined to be a cell phone
battery initially found at the transfer center
(Smalley, 2020).
Fire Count
1

Shoreway Environmental Center, San Carlos, CA57
5
2013-2017
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Unknown LIBs
Half of all fires seen at this MRF between 2013
and 2017 were caused by LIBs. Damages
unknown (SBWMA, 2017).
Fire Count
21
9/9/2016
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
$8.5 million in damages. Nearly all the facility's
equipment was destroyed, along with its
electrical system, but the building survived. 100
firefighters were called to the scene. Shoreway
was later dropped by its insurer after this
incident (Timpane et al., 2017; Taylor, 2018).
Fire Count
1
57 See Industry Experience 1 for more detailed information.
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Larimer County Landfill's Recycling Center, Fort Collins, CO58
6
8/6/2018
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Cell phone battery
Facility had to be closed for the day after fire
started in loose recyclables. The level of smoke
created by the fire led two employees to be
evaluated for smoke inhalation (Marmaduke,
2018).
Fire Count
1
8/23/2018
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Cell phone battery
Employees quickly extinguished the fire after
seeing a smoldering LIB on the tipping floor
(Marmaduke, 2018).
Fire Count
1

Scott Area Recycling Facility, Davenport, IA
7
12/19/2019
Likely or Definite
Likely
A
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
The fire started in a pile of non-recyclables that
had been pulled off the line. The MRF was
closed for two hours while the fire department
extinguished the fire (Gaul, 2020).
Fire Count
1
58 See Industry Experience 3 for more detailed information.
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Mack's Twin City Recycling, Urbana, IL
8
11/29/2019
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
This fire most likely started from an LIB that
Fire Count
1
exploded on a shelf and destroyed one building
at the MRF. 30 firefighters responded to the
fire. After this incident, the MRF stopped
accepting LIBs; cardboard balers had been
housed in the destroyed building so the MRF also
stopped accepting cardboard for some time
(Lithium battery could have caused fire, 2019;
Schenk, 2019).
12/2/2019
Likely or Definite
Likely
A
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
This fire was the second within one week at this
Fire Count
1
MRF. Firefighters responded and there were no
injuries (Another fire, 2019).

Republic Services Recycling Center, Indianapolis, IN
9
3/27/2018
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
Fire started when LIBs sparked on the MRFs

Fire Count
1
conveyer belt. The facility was damaged and
was closed for a few days after the fire, but
there were no injuries (Allbrittin, 2018).
Ecomaine, Portland, ME
10
12/1/2017
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Laptop battery
The fire is believed to have been started by a
damaged laptop battery. Staff extinguished the
fire in about 40 minutes (Fredericson, 2017).
Fire Count
1
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Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County
(RRRASOC), Southfield, Ml
11
7/29/2018
Likely or Definite
Definitely
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
19 firefighters responded to the incident, which
originally started in the MRFs conveyer system.
Although the fire was initially difficult to access,
the fire was eventually extinguished (Dimick,
2018).
Fire Count
1

Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority (SOCRRA), Troy, Ml
12
2018
Likely or Definite
Definitely
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Lithium metal
battery
A small fire with unknown damages started
when machinery compressed a lithium battery
(Laitner, 2018).
Fire Count
1

Dem-Con Recycling Facility, Blaine, MN
13
6/29/2018
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
A large fire started by what was likely an LIB
during this MRFs off-hours. The fire grew large,
and multiple local fire crews were on scene for
over 24 hours. When the fire was extinguished,
the building was a total loss. The facility faced
financial losses of millions of dollars (Common
recycling mistake is causing fires, 2019).
Fire Count
1
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Friedman Recycling, Albuquerque, NM
14
9/29/2020
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
A stack of recyclables that were about to be
shipped caught on fire, which was caused by a
discarded LIB. No injuries or property damage
resulted from the fire, although the local area
issued an air quality warning due to the amount
of smoke caused by the fire. The facility was
back in service the next morning (Wilham, 2020;
see also Panas, 2021).
Fire Count
1

Royal Waste Services, Queens, NY
15
3/16/2018
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: 6^
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
This large fire was started by a disposed LIB and
was exacerbated by strong winds and 15-foot
high piles of newspapers and cardboard. 198
firefighters from 44 companies arrived at the
scene and one firefighter sustained a minor
injury. Four nearby train lines were delayed for
4 hours (Cook 6t Levy, 2018; Gannon, 2018)
Fire Count
1

Taylor Garbage, Apalachin, NY
16
1/3/2020
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts: ($)
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
The fire, started by either a phone or laptop
battery, destroyed the facility and required a
response from over 30 fire departments. There
were no water hookups in the area, so the fire
departments had to truck water in repeatedly.
No injuries were reported (Gilroy, 2020a,
2020b).
Fire Count
1
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Rumpke Waste 6t Recycling, Cincinnati, OH59
17
2016
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIBs
Six fires were caused by improperly disposed
LIBs in 2016 at this MRF. The fire department
responded to each incident, with damages
unknown (Caproni, 2016).
Fire Count
6
2017
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Unknown LIBs
Over a dozen fires were caused by improperly
disposed LIBs in 2017 at this MRF, with damages
unknown (Jennings, 2018).
Fire Count
12
3/29/2018
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
A fire sparked from a small LIB, but there was
no damage and no injuries (Jennings, 2018).
Fire Count
1

North Lincoln Sanitary Service Recycle Center, North Lincoln, OR
18
9/14/2020
Likely or Definite
Likely
A
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
A fire started in the facility's compacter, likely
from an LIB. The fire department responded and
was able to extinguish the fire (Kirkendall,
2020).
Fire Count
1

Fort Hood Recycle, Fort Hood, TX
19
5/9/2019
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIBs
The facility experienced four fires in 2019, one
of which damaged thousands of pounds of
recyclables which had to then be landfilled
(Luciano, 2019).
Fire Count
4
59 See Industry Experience 4 for more detailed information.
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Republic Services Recycling Center, Piano, TX 20
12/28/2016
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
A fire started in this facility in the winter, after
the facility's sprinkler system was damaged by a
freeze. The fire department responded but were
unable to stop the fire, which ended up
destroying the MRF. The facility was rebuilt
after the fire (Mock, 2020).
Fire Count
1
2019
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Laptop battery
A small fire started from a laptop in the new
facility, after the old building had burnt down
due to the 2016 fire (Mock, 2020).
Fire Count
1
Chittenden Solid Waste District's Recycling Facility, Williston, VT
21
7/30/2018
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
©

Battery Type
Lithium metal
battery
A fire started on the MRFs tipping floor after
staff had left for the night, with lithium
batteries a likely suspect. The alarm system
automatically called the fire department, who
extinguished the fire. The fire damaged an
exterior wall and disrupted service for two days
(Gribkoff, 2018).
Fire Count
1
John's Disposal, Norway, Wl
22
7/1/2018
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:

Battery Type
Unknown LIB
This large fire was possibly started from an
LIB in a bale. Firefighters from four counties
used almost 2 million gallons of water, and
one firefighter was transported to the
hospital with heat exhaustion. Local roads
were closed during the blaze, and the
facility was closed after the incident.
However, local recycling service was
uninterrupted due to other facilities filling in
the gaps (Mass/Ve fire at recycling facility,
2018; Mauk 6t Sadowski, 2018).
Fire Count
1
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Outagamie County Recycling 6t Solid Waste, Appleton, Wl
23
9/13/2019
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
An LIB started a fire in a trash compactor at
this recycling facility. Staff quickly
extinguished the fire without injury or
damage (Haines, 2019).
Fire Count
1
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3.4.2) Transportation
Waste Management Truck, Little Rock, AR
24
2016
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
A small fire started inside of a recycling
truck due to an LIB (Mershon, 2016).
Fire Count
1

Rumpke Truck, Bloomington, IN
25
11/27/2018
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Lime scooter battery
Fire forced the driver to dump the trucks
load of garbage in a church parking lot. The
fire was extinguished by a local fire
department shortly afterwards (Christian,
2018).
Fire Count
1
Sunview Logistics Truck, Livingston County, Ml
26
9/17/2020
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: 6^

Battery Type
Unknown LIB
Used LIBs caught fire in a semi-trailer,
forcing emergency responders to close an
interstate highway for five hours. One
firefighter suffered a minor injury (King,
2020).
Fire Count
1

Dem-Con Truck, Belle Plaine, MN
27
7/29/2020
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
A truck hauling scrap metal dumped its load
after the material onboard caught fire.
Firefighters were called to the scene (Scrap
heap catches fire, 2020).
Fire Count
1
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Jacksonville Sanitation Truck, Onslow County, NC
28
11/14/2019
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unclear if LIB or
lithium metal battery
An LIB improperly placed in a curbside
garbage can started a fire in a garbage truck,
which then emptied its contents into the
street. The fire department was called to
extinguish the fire (Levine 6t Basden, 2019).
Fire Count
1

Atlantic County Utilities Authority Truck, Brigantine, NJ
29
2018
Likely or Definite
Definite
ft
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Hoverboard battery
A hoverboard thrown away in a household
trashcan started a fire aboard a garbage
truck (Atlantic County Utility Authority,
2019).
Fire Count
1
11/26/2019
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
E-cigarette battery
An e-cigarette's LIB caused a fire in a garbage
truck. Local authorities responded to put out
the fire (Atlantic County Utility Authority,
2019).
Fire Count
1

DSNY Truck, New York, NY
30
1/13/2017
Likely or Definite
Definite
ft
Details and Impacts
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
A box of LIBs exploded when it was
compacted by the garbage truck, prompting
nearby civilians to call 911. Workers threw
the box of LIBs into a puddle to extinguish
the fire (Garger, 2017).
Fire Count
1
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FedEx Truck, Jackson Township, OH
31
6/5/2017
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: 0^0

Battery Type
Lithium metal
batteries
A box truck filled with LIBs being sent for
recycling caught fire while on the road,
seriously damaging the vehicle. The fire
department responded, and the turnpike was
closed for several hours (O'Hara, 2017).
Fire Count
1
Republic Services Recycling Center Truck, Piano, TX
32
2019
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Cordless vacuum
battery
An LIB from a cordless vacuum ignited as
waste haulers were picking up recyclables.
The LIB was extinguished on the customer's
front lawn (Mock, 2020).
Fire Count
1

Union Pacific Train, Houston, TX
33
4/23/2017
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIBs
LIBs being shipped for recycling ignited and
exploded, resulting in a blast that blew out
the windows of nearby buildings and
damaged one container on the rail car.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze after two
hours and the affected car was taken out of
service (Beausoleil, 2017; Neighborhood
residents concerned following train car
explosion, 2017)
Fire Count
1

Municipal Garbage Truck, Bellevue, WA
34
4/4/2018
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Hoverboard battery
An LIB from a hoverboard thrown in the
garbage ignited in transit, forcing the truck
to dump its load in the street. Two firetrucks
were called to the scene (Police: Faulty
hoverboard starts fire, 2018).
Fire Count
1
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Waste Connections Truck, Washougal, WA
35
11/15/2019
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
An LIB tossed in the recycling ignited after
being crushed by a truck compactor. The
truck dumped its load into street, creating an
obstruction that took four hours to clean up.
A representative from Waste Connections
also mentioned that LIB fires are "routine" in
its vehicles, without mentioning how many
total fires the waste management company
has seen (Mize, 2019).
Fire Count
2

Eau Claire Garbage Truck, Eau Claire, Wl
36
Unknown
Likely or Definite
Definitely
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Cell phone battery
An LIB ignited in a recycling truck, whose
operator then put out the fire with a water
bottle (Warning issued after discarded
battery starts truck on fire, 2018).
Fire Count
1
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3.4.3) Landfills
Los Reales Landfill, Tucson, AZ
37
June 2020
Likely or Definite
Definite
A
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIBs
Multiple fires in a short span of time were
attributed to LIBs. Hot temperatures may
have also contributed to these fires (City of
Tucson, 2020).
Fire Count
3

Yolo County Central Landfill, Yolo County, CA
38
10/1/2020
Likely or Definite
Definite
&
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
An LIB improperly discarded in this landfill
started a late-night fire, which grew to be a
half-acre in size as it burned tires and other
material. The fire department had the fire
under control by morning (Keene, 2020).
Fire Count
1

Linn County Solid Waste Agency, Marion, IA
39
2016
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Drone battery,
computer battery,
lithium metal battery
Numerous fires were caused by LIBs over the
course of six weeks, often after compactors
drove over the batteries and cracked them
open (McCarthy, 2016).
Fire Count
3

Western HW Landfill
40
2019
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Lithium metal battery
Incompatible wastes, including lithium
batteries and pool chemicals, mixed and self-
ignited. Landfill personnel were able to
extinguish the fire, using water and clay
(EPA, personal communication, 2019).
Fire Count
1
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McPherson Area Solid Waste Utility, McPherson, KS
41
October 2019
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
Few details were available, though staff
report that fires are occurring more
frequently, often due to LIBs (Some batteries
causing fires, 2019).
Fire Count
1

Lebanon Landfill, Lebanon, NH
42
7/24/2018
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Car starter booster
An LIB used for jump-starting cars ignited
after being run over by the landfill's
compacting equipment. Staff put out the fire
right away (Lebanon, New Hampshire, 2018).
Fire Count
1

Steuben County Landfill, Bath, NY
43
7/9/2020
Likely or Definite
Definite
A
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Cell phone battery
Four fire companies responded to an LIB fire
that was exacerbated by high heat (Day,
2020).
Fire Count
1

Knott Landfill, Bend, OR
44
9/17/2018
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Toy car battery and
unknown LIBs
This landfill experienced three LIB fires in a
single week and averages about two to three
LIB fires a month. Thus, the fire count of 3 is
very conservative (Sievert, 2020).
Fire Count
3
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Pacific Northwest Landfill60
45
June 2017 -
December 2020
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Cell phone battery:
17
Hoverboard size
battery: 1
Laptop battery: 6
Remote control
airplane battery: 1
Tablet battery: 6
Watch battery: 1
DVD player battery: 1
Unknown LIBs: 91
One landfill consulted for this report noticed
an increasing number of LIBs causing fires, so
a supervisor began keeping a record of each
LIB-caused fire. Over roughly three years, the
facility experienced 124 fires known to be
caused by LIBs from a variety of devices.
Most were extinguished by staff, but a few
fires required assistance from firefighters. A
representative from the facility indicated
that this number of fires is not abnormal for
landfills (landfill supervisor, personal
communication, 2021).
Fire Count
124
Horn Rapids Landfill, Richland, WA
46
1/19/2019
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Unknown LIBs
Few details were available, but this landfill
reported that numerous LIB-caused fires
broke out in a single year (Cary, 2019).
Fire Count
3
60 See Industry Experience 2 for more detailed information. The landfill supervisor who provided data for this
facility requested that the facility remain anonymous, given negative public perceptions regarding landfill fires. We
believe that the public benefit of including the detailed data this landfill provided justifies withholding the name of
the landfill.
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3.4.4.) Other
Shoreway Environmental Center Transfer Station, San Carlos, CA
47
2015 and 2017
Likely or Definite
Definite
A
Details and Impacts
Battery Type
Unknown LIBs
Once in 2015 and twice in 2017, LIBs started
fires in the Shoreway Transfer Station, which
is co-located with the Shoreway MRF
(SBWMA, 2017).
Fire Count
3
Facility Type
Transfer station
Ybor City Waste Management Transfer Station, Tampa, FL
48
3/26/2018
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
©

Battery Type
Unknown LIB
Around 25 firefighters responded, and the
fire caused extensive damages. The facility
was unable to accept recyclable material for
some time, and recyclables were sent to the
Pinellas County Waste-to-Energy Plant until
the facility was able to operate again. (City
of Clearwater, 2020; McManus, 2018).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Transfer station
Midwestern Electronics Recycler
49
2020
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:

Battery Type
Unknown LIB
No injuries were reported but the fire caused
extensive damage, including the collapse of
three buildings. 80 firefighters responded to
the incident (EPA, personal communication,
2021).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Electronics recycler
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UMD Business School, College Park, MD
50
11/12/2014
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
E-cigarette battery
An e-cigarette thrown in a trash can started a
small fire inside a building. Four fire engines,
two fire ladders, a heavy-duty rescue squad,
an ambulance, and an incident commander
all responded to the incident (E-cigarette
causes fire, 2014).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Trash can

Montgomery County Central Transfer Station, Derwood, MD
51
8/30/2020
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIBs
A pallet of mixed batteries caught fire while
the facility was closed for the day.
Firefighters responded quickly and contained
the flames, which spread to the storage
facility structure and appeared to damage
the facility (Lindsay, 2020).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Transfer station

Westonka Library Battery Drop-off Bin, Mound, MN
52
10/14/2019
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
E-cigarette battery
A fire ignited when an e-cigarette self-
started in an LIB collection bin at a public
library. The incident forced local authorities
to end their LIB collection program in all
public buildings (Olson, 2019; Scrap heap
catches fire, 2020).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Battery collection bin

Otter Tail Transfer Station, Fergus Falls, MN
53
5/15/2020
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
An employee noticed a smoldering LIB in the
transfer station's sorting equipment and was
able to extinguish the battery before the
incident spread (Otter Tail County,
Minnesota, 2020).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Transfer station
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American Recycling 6t Disposal, Claremont, NH
54
9/11/2019
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
A suspected LIB in a scrap car caught on fire
at the facility. Two firetrucks were called to
the scene, and the fire was extinguished in
about an hour (Muzeroll, 2019).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Scrap metal yard

Sunnking, Brockport, NY
55
Unknown
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Pouch battery,
possibly from iPad
A battery ignited as it was being handled by a
staff member. The battery was brought
outside and burned out (Staub, 2020).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Electronics recycler

Metro South Station, Oregon City, OR
56
8/1/2018
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
E-scooter battery
A bulldozer operator isolated a smoldering e-
scooter, and other staff doused it with water.
There was no damage to the facility
(Cathcart, 2019).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Transfer Station
Inmetco, Ellwood City, PA
57
11/8/2015
Likely or Definite
Definitely
Details and Impacts: 6^
Battery Type
Cell phone and radio
batteries
A fire was started in a warehouse by LIBs in
storage. The fire destroyed the warehouse
and four firefighters suffered chemical burns
and were taken to the hospital (Allen, 2015).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Battery recycler
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Rutherford County Solid Waste Convenience Center, Murfreesboro, TN
58
6/3/2020
Likely or Definite
Definitely
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Vacuum cleaner
battery
A trash compactor caught fire when an LIB-
powered vacuum was crushed, causing the
battery to short-circuit (Hall, 2020).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Convenience center

Covanta Fairfax, Fairfax, VA
59
2019
Likely or Definite
Definitely
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
A small fire broke out in this waste-to-energy
plant after an LIB was improperly thrown
away in household garbage (Fairfax County,
Virginia, 2019).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Waste-to-energy
plant

Snohomish County Transfer Facility, Everett, WA
60
Unknown
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Toy battery
At least one small fire has started at this
transfer station from an LIB in a discarded toy
(Snohomish County, Washington, 2018).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Transfer facility

Spokane Waste-to-Energy Plant, Spokane, WA
61
2019
Likely or Definite
Definitely
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Possibly cell phone
batteries
Two fires started on the plant's tipping floor,
possibly from cell phone batteries (Blocker,
2019).
Fire Count
2
Facility Type
Waste-to-energy
plant
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
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Simon Metals, Tacoma, WA
62
9/17/2018
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
This fire at a scrap metal yard caused

Fire Count
1
$95,000 to $115,000 in damages. Seven
firetrucks were called to the scene, and it
took nine hours to put out the blaze
(Smalley, 2018).
Facility Type
Scrap metal yard
Pacific Coast Shredding, Vancouver, WA61
63
2019
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts:
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
This fire was likely started by an LIB going
through an auto shredder. The fire caused
$20,000 of damage, increased insurance
rates, and closed the facility for a day.
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Scrap metal yard
10/28/2020
Likely or Definite
Likely
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Unknown LIB
A large box of scrap caught on fire, likely
because of an LIB. The box was moved
outside, and the fire was put out by staff.
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Scrap metal yard

Cascade Asset Management, Madison, Wl
64
2016
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Cell phone battery
An LIB began smoking and then burst into
flames after an employee opened a phone to
remove it at this electronics recycler
(Fowler, 2018).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Electronic scrap
processor
2017
Likely or Definite
Definite
Details and Impacts: None or unknown
Battery Type
Tablet battery
An LIB exploded while the tablet that housed
it was being disassembled. The surrounding
area had to be evacuated (Fowler, 2018).
Fire Count
1
Facility Type
Electronic scrap
processor
61 See Industry Experience 5 for more detailed information.
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4) Conclusion
It is clear from the damage cases collected in this report that LIB-caused fires throughout the waste
management process are already risking the safety of workers, by-standers, and emergency responders
and costing the industry money. This problem is only going to get worse in future years. LIBs are already
present in a wide array of applications, and their prevalence is increasing. As devices containing these
batteries reach the ends of their useful lives, they will contribute to the surging number of waste LIBs
produced. Likewise, as the world transitions to electric vehicles and reliance on intermittent renewable
energy that requires significant storage capacity, dealing with large scale end-of-life LIBs will also
become a pressing issue.
Unfortunately, currently many LIBs are disposed of in inappropriate ways, creating major problems for
MRFs, landfills, the transportation system, and other waste management facilities. Solid waste
regulations, industry best management practices, and facility-level strategies have thus far fallen short
of addressing these problems. Fires in these locations pose a direct threat to reliable waste
management services, environmental quality, and human health. LIB fires can also introduce financial
pressures, raise costs to households, and lead to furloughs or layoffs.
Indeed, many of these negative effects are already occurring, and in some cases accelerating, at waste
management facilities across the United States. Other reports and surveys have hinted at these impacts,
but this report specifically compiled significant evidence that LIBs are creating major problems for
institutions across the waste management industry. The quantitative data collected here indicate that
LIB fires at waste facilities are increasingly frequent, widespread, and harmful. Injuries, demand for
emergency responders, service disruptions, and monetary impacts have all resulted from LIB fires.
Across the board, a significant proportion of facilities have experienced at least one of these negative
impacts in recent years. MRFs, in particular, appear to frequently suffer from LIB fires, threatening the
continued availability of the environmentally beneficial waste management services they offer.
Likewise, discussions with representatives from across the waste management industry reveal that this
issue is well known and pressing. Each representative consulted agreed that LIB fires pose a threat to
their operations that needs to be addressed—most even declared this issue to be the most pressing
problem currently facing their industry.
As this report's research methodology and discussions with industry representatives reveal, the problem
of LIBs entering the waste system and the impacts they cause are severely underestimated. Relying
solely on media reports of fire incidents at waste facilities will lead to underreporting of both the
frequency and severity of this problem. News coverage of these fires is rare and heavily dependent on
numerous external factors. When media sources do cover such events, they rarely address the full range
of detrimental impacts they cause, focusing far more on the immediate response and very little on the
indirect damage done to the waste system, human health, the environment, or even proper battery
management.
In spite of this obstacle, this report presents ample evidence showing that LIBs in the waste
management process are a major issue and it is likely that the problem is even bigger than we know.
Waste facilities' pragmatic responses, heightened awareness of workers in the field, rising insurance
rates, anecdotal reports, and quantitative evidence all demonstrate that the issue of improperly
discarded LIBs is a serious and growing concern for members of the waste management industry. While
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
57

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this report contributes to increasing general awareness of the threat posed by improperly discarded
LIBs, solving this problem will require further coordination and action by the wide variety of
stakeholders who share an interest in maintaining a safe, effective, and sustainable waste management
system.
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
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Interviews
Amanda Pratt and Randy Ellert. Rumpke Waste & Recycling. Teleconference. October 29, 2020.
Jason Kime. Pacific Coast Shredding. Teleconference. October 29, 2020.
Joe LaMariana. Rethink Waste. Teleconference. October 2, 2020.
Landfill Supervisor. A Pacific Northwest Landfill. Teleconference. October 1, 2020.62
Linda Hammett. Larimer County Solid Waste Department. Teleconference. November 23, 2020.
62 The landfill supervisor who provided data for this facility requested that the facility remain anonymous, given
negative public perceptions regarding landfill fires. We believe that the public benefit of including the detailed data
this landfill provided justifies withholding the name of the landfill.
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Appendix 1: Additional Sites Considered but Not Included
Case # Date	Site Name State Reason Rejected	Source Link
1
6/11/2020
Tank's
Recycling and
Landfill
Facility
AZ
Suspected cause of this landfill
fire is HHW. Batteries listed as
one of many possible causes.
Unknown if LIBs were a possible
cause or other batteries.
https://tucson.com/news/loca
l/oid-batteries-to-blame-for-
burning-issue-at-tucson-
landfilIs/article 5c893527-
c9e6-5057-830e-
8622d08750af.html
2
2019
Tank's
Recycling and
Landfill
Facility Truck
AZ
Suspected cause of this garbage
truck fire is HHW. Batteries
listed as one of many possible
causes. Unknown if LIBs were a
possible cause or other
batteries.
https://tucson. com/news/I oca
i/old-batteries-to-blame-for-
burning-issue-at-tucson-
la ndfil Is/a rticle 5c893527-
c9e6-5057-830e-
8622d08750af.html
3
6/6/2019
Burrtec
CA
The cause of this MRF fire is
undetermined, but LIBs are
listed as a cause of similar
facility fires.
https://www.cactushugs.com/
following-that-big-fire-burrtec-
would-like-to-remind-vou-not-
to -t h r o w-vo ur-batteries-in-
recvcling-containers/
4
12/18/2018
Los Gatos Tire
and Auto
Repair
CA
A Tesla vehicle caught fire twice:
once in a parking lot, and again
after being brought to a tow
yard. Unclear if the car was
considered disposed at this
point.
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/
12/19/tesla-model-s-catches-
fire-in-los-gatos-reignites-
hours-later-a t-tow-va r d -. h tm 1
5
4/29/2013
Shoreway
Environmental
Center
CA
Battery fire at a MRF. Battery
type is not specified, unknown if
it was an LIB or another type of
battery.
https://www.smda ilviournal.c
om/news/I oca l/sa n-ca rlos-f i re-
clears-shorewav-
environmental-
center/a rticle 182fcc52-2861-
5776-a35d-
c43cc4e34872.html
6
9/2/2019
Truth Aquatics
Boat
CA
No definitive cause for this
deadly fire is known, but non-
waste batteries are listed as a
potential cause.
https://www.washingtonpost.
com/national/california-dive-
boat-fire-cause-
conception/2020/10/20/97eb
9bf4-12fl-lleb-9f38-
35350e52c23c storv.html
7
7/18/2019
Republic
Services Boise
Garbage Truck
ID
The cause of this garbage truck
fire is not known, but the last
three truck fires for Republic
Services have been caused by
improper disposal of hazardous
waste, including LIBs.
https://idahonews.com/news/
local/citv-of-boise-hazardous-
wa ste-ca n -lea d-to-ga r ba ge-
truck-fires
An Analysis of Lithium-ion Battery Fires in Waste Management and Recycling
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8
8/6/2019
Totall Metal
Recycling
IL
The media reported that a large
stack of computers with LIBs
caused this fire, but the facility
disputed this media report.
https://www. radio.com/kmox
/ga i ieries/f ire-gra n ite-citv-
recvc 1 i ng-ce nter-exti ngu ish ed -
overnight
9
3/26/2020
Rumpke
Garbage Truck
KY
Two fires were started in
Rumpke trucks within one week.
LIBs were listed with some other
common fire-starters as
potential causes, but the cause
was not known.
https://www.whasll.com/arti
cle/news/local/rumpke-
fiammable-items/417-
a843 If 95-fc08-4204-bOd 3-
861f0affl694
10
9/27/2020
Cleanlites
Recycling
Ml
Source does not specify what
kind of batteries started the fire.
Since this site accepts e-waste,
there is a good chance the
batteries were LIBs, but the type
of battery is not stated.
https://resource-
recvcling.com/e-
scrap/2020/10/01/f ire-
da mages-cleanl ites-
facilitv/?utm medium=email&
utm source=internal&utm ca
mpaign=Oct+l+ESN
11
7/20/2016
Wilson
Trucking
Shipping
Center
NC
Fire was started by "non-alkaline
batteries." The cause could have
been LIBs or another non-
alkaline battery.
https://resource-
recvcling.com/e-
sc ra p/2017/03/02/e-sc ra p-
batterv-fire-leads-lawsuit/
12
3/24/2020
Salem
Transfer
Station
NH
LIBs were listed with wood stove
ash as potential causes, but the
cause was not known.
https://www.unionleader.com
/n e ws/s a f etv/p i 1 es-o f-
garbage-ignite-overnight-at-
salem-transfer-
station/article f3040379-
e368-53ab-87ee-
367ela694011.html
13
11/9/2020
Tompkins
County Solid
Waste Center
NY
Fire started by an unspecified
battery, but the article mentions
how LIBs, in particular, are
known to cause fires.
https://www.wxhc.com/small-
fire-at-tc-recvcling-center-
likelv-caused-bv-batteries/
14
11/10/2020
Garten
Recycling
Services
OR
LIBs were listed with a propane
tank as potential causes, but the
cause was not known.
https://www.salemreporter.co
m/posts/3252/a -30-000-f i re-
a t-gar ten-plan t-s hows-da nge r-
of-w is hful-recvcling
15
5/1/2020
Pittsylvania
County
Landfill
VA
Landfill fire could have been
started by any type of solid
waste, with LIBs listed as an
option.
https://www.chathamstartrib
une.com/news/article 1587bb
la-bbef-llea-a43a-
8f4c3891dlb8.html
16
7/25/2019
Augusta
Regional
Landfill
VA
The cause of the fire is
unknown, but batteries are
noted as something that should
be recycled.
https://www.whsv.com/conte
n t/n ews /Landfill-fire-
reminder-to-recvcle-
especia llv-batteries-
513218161.html
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Appendix 2: List of Questions from Stakeholder Interviews
1.	Are you comfortable with us including the information we discuss here in a public report?
2.	To start, can you explain to us what happened in the fire incident?
3.	Did you do any sort of internal investigation of the incident? Was there any external
investigation? If so, what can you tell us about what you found? Did you determine the exact
cause of the fire?
4.	What were some of the impacts of the fire? Has your facility experienced any of the following
issues? Others not considered here?
a.	External response (i.e., emergency responders called to scene)
b.	Service disruption (e.g., temporary (or permanent) facility closure, delayed schedules,
end of collection program, etc.)
c.	Monetary impacts (e.g., structural damage, fines, increased insurance rates, etc.)
d.	Injury (and/or hospitalizations)
5.	How frequently are such fires occurring, and how often do they come down to batteries?
Upward trends in frequency?
6.	And how often do those events garner media attention? How big is this problem relative to how
often it gets reported?
7.	Have you made changes to procedures to prevent or reduce the incidence of fires?
8.	What would you like to see done about this problem by other stakeholders? (e.g., public service
campaign, development of new best management practices, new regulations, etc.)
9.	Which industry associations, if any, do you interact with most? Have any associations given you
guidance on this issue? If so, could you share it with us? Have you reached out to any industry
associations in search of or requesting guidance or best management practices for li-ions?
10.	Do you have any questions or comments for us?
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Appendix 3: Linked Resources
Earth 911. (n.d.) Recycling Search, https://search.earth911.com/
Larimer County, Colorado, (n.d.) Be Alert! Divert Hidden Batteries.
https://www.larimer.0rg/s0lidwaste/batteries#T00lkit
U.S. Department of Transportation, (n.d.) Transporting Lithium Batteries.
https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/lithiumbatteries
U.S. Government Publishing Office, (n.d.) Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.
https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-
bin/ECFR?SID=3acc0733a82912d7e842al95bl8c71f6&mc=true&page=browse
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