- Ohio-based Rumpke Waste & Recycling wants residents to stop putting lithium ion batteries in their recycling bins because they're causing facility fires, as reported by the Cincinnati Business Courier.
- Rumpke says it can't properly separate batteries from the 1.5 million pounds of material it processes every day and they become flammable once broken open by equipment.
- The company's new $32 million recycling facility in Cincinnati has had to call firefighters six times this year. Their previous facility burned down in 2012.
Recycling contamination is an ongoing issue in many cities and this highlights how dangerous it can be for workers. While some retail stores have battery drop-off programs they're not comprehensive and the practice hasn't become normalized for many people. Rumpke said it doesn't want to discourage recycling participation but there are limits.
"We want people to recycle," Rumpke recycling manager Brad Dunn said in a statement, as reported by the Courier. "We want to make recycling easy, accessible and affordable. But we do have to set some parameters to ensure the safety of our employees and the plant as well as make sure the material received can be recycled."
Battery stewardship organization Call2Recycle has been working on this issue for decades and recently announced a 22% increase in collections over last year thanks in part to a new extended producer responsibility law in Vermont. Recent research has found new recycling methods, including one that uses fungi, which could be more cost-effective. In the meantime, more education is needed to make sure residents know that the recycling bin is not the right place for their batteries.