Hazardous materials a landfill threat

Batteries can cause fires

    COUNTY – Hazardous materials, batteries and bulbs are among the recyclable materials that should be checked before being thrown away as they could be fire hazards at the county landfill, local recycling officials said this week.
    As officials try to ramp up recycling efforts in Shelby County this month, they are cautioning residents about some more items that should be recycled rather than thrown away with the trash.  And those include hazardous materials.
    “We all have household hazardous materials in our homes,” said Karen Monical, Education Coordinator at the Carroll County Landfill and Recycling Center and West Central Iowa Solid Waste.  Shelby County recycling materials are trucked to the Carroll center for processing.
    “Some are easy to spot, like that bag of lawn fertilizer in the garage.  But it’s the small items that cause the biggest problems.”
    Batteries and bulbs are now longer lasting and more energy efficient, but this comes with a cost, Monical said.  “Hazardous materials are now used to produce these items, and they create fires and release toxins when crushed.”

Fires at Landfill
    Everything in garbage and recycling takes a beating.  Whether in the back of the garbage packer, at the crusher in the landfill, or in machines and equipment in the recycling center, everything is smashed.
    “Bulbs release mercury and toxins,” Monical said.  “Batteries are a ticking time bomb for fire, hidden in greeting cards, solar lights, electric toothbrushes, vaping devices, watches, hearing aids, power tools, vacuums, cell phones, laptops, toys and gadgets.”
    Brandon Burmeister, Shelby County Area Solid Waste Agency Manager, said all hazardous materials cause environmental damage, but batteries do add another level of serious damage, and that is fire.
    “Alkaline batteries are the only battery that can be placed in the trash,” he said.  “All other batteries belong with hazardous waste.”
    Mary Wittry, Regional Contact for West Central Iowa Solid Waste Management Association (WCISW) and Director of Carroll County Solid Waste Management Commission, said fire is a real concern.
    “There have been two large fires at the regional landfill in Carroll the past nine months,” she said.  “While we cannot always determine the cause of these large fires, we know we have buried crushed batteries that could combust and be the culprit.”

Battery Fires
    On any given day, landfill crusher operators routinely put out battery fires.  Most times they see and hear it early, and are able to smother the fire before it spreads.
    Theses fires originate from a laptop, cell phone, or other electronic device containing a lithium-ion battery – items that do not belong in the household trash or in the landfill.
    “All electronic devices are recyclable and illegal to put in the landfill, and the battery inside is a fire starter,” said Wittry.
    As Shelby County residents spring clean homes and the garage, they are urged to box up all items labeled corrosive, toxic, flammable, skull and crossbones, and keep out of reach of children, and include batteries (except alkaline) and all bulbs (except incandescent).
    Bring items to the Shelby County Transfer Station, located at 1129 1200th St. in Harlan, during normal business hours of 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Hazardous materials, batteries, and bulbs can be confusing.  Visit westcentralsolidwaste.com, choose the hazardous waste icon, and find details and images of what is hazardous waste and what is not.  
    Quick links can be found for hazardous battery and bulb questions.
    “Keeping our planet – soil, water, and air – clean and safe starts at home, with everyone doing their part to protect the environment,” said Monical.  
    “This year as we celebrate Earth Day (April 22), make changes that will make every day Earth Day, doing your part to put hazardous waste in the right place.”

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