September 14, 2021

EPA Reports on Improper Lithium-Ion Battery Disposal

Due to their reactive chemistry, lithium-ion batteries are known for catching fire and causing significant injury to human health and property. In July 2021, EPA reported on lithium-ion batteries and their improper management and disposal. Over a seven-year period, the agency reports no less than 245 fires were caused by lithium-ion and lithium metal batteries located at landfills, in material recovery facilities, and while being transported. These incidents involve not only bodily injury but also recycling and waste service disruptions, monetary losses, and sometimes the decision to stop collecting these batteries altogether. Unfortunately, a single solution is not available. A combination of education, proper packaging, communication between stakeholders, and pragmatic responses will all be necessary to reduce the frequency of these emergencies.

Whether lithium-ion batteries are generated in an industrial facility or at home, the same safe management practices are recommended. Lithium-ion batteries should be bagged individually and have their terminals taped. Batteries should be collected separately from other wastes and not discarded in trash or recycling bins. The agency suggests batteries generated at home be taken to household hazardous waste collection facilities or electronics recyclers. Facilities and households looking for more information on lithium-ion batteries can visit EPA’s webpage.

 


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This document addresses issues of a general nature related to the federal RCRA regulations. Persons evaluating specific circumstances dealing with the RCRA regulations should review state and local laws and regulations, which may be more stringent than federal requirements. In addition, the assistance of a qualified professional should be enlisted to address any site-specific circumstances.