Landfill urges proper battery disposal after one explodes and burns worker

·3 min read
The Fredericton Region Solid Waste Commission is urging people not to throw batteries in the garbage after a landfill worker was burned by an exploding lithium battery. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)
The Fredericton Region Solid Waste Commission is urging people not to throw batteries in the garbage after a landfill worker was burned by an exploding lithium battery. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)

Management at Fredericton's local landfill is urging the public to properly dispose of batteries after one exploded at the site, burning an employee.

On Monday, a worker at the Fredericton Region Solid Waste Commission noticed a section of the landfill designated for residential and commercial waste was smouldering, Brad Janes, a spokesperson for the commission, said on CBC's Information Morning Fredericton.

He tried raking the smouldering garbage out of the main pile, when a rechargeable lithium battery exploded, leaving a coin-sized burn on one side of his neck and some burns on his arm.

"It could have been much worse but it's, it's just another indication of the prevalence of batteries that are going into black bags, or just being tossed into the debris pile," said Janes.

This was the second such incident at the landfill in three years, he said.

Janes said the battery was similar to those commonly used to power toy cars, adding the landfill has seen more and more of them being improperly disposed of in the garbage in recent years.

Other batteries, like triple-A and double-A batteries, are less likely to explode, but Janes said they're still not supposed to be thrown out with regular garbage.

CBC
CBC

"It's all about education, and we do advertise feverishly, actually, in terms of what to do with batteries and other household hazardous waste items just to keep them out of the landfill, because the lithium batteries especially can just heat up," he said.

Rather than just throwing them in with regular garbage, batteries of all kinds are supposed to be disposed of at the landfill's on-site household hazardous waste depot, which is free and accessible on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Janes said.

"And it's not just for batteries — it's for paint, gasoline, anything like that, but batteries are popular and we bring in a lot."

Improper battery disposal an 'industry-wide issue'

The Fredericton Region Solid Waste Commission isn't the only landfill in New Brunswick that's had problems with improperly disposed of batteries.

While no one has been injured by them, staff at Eco360 have had instances of batteries catching fire or exploding after being run over by heavy equipment, said Gena Alderson, spokesperson for the landfill, which handles garbage for the southeastern part of the province.

CBC/Guillaume Aubut
CBC/Guillaume Aubut

"I think if you talk to other people, you'll see it's a really, it's an industry-wide issue," Alderson said.

"I think that the main thing is they [batteries] are just, they're very small and so people often think that, you know, there's, there's no way that something so small could be so dangerous, but in fact they can."

Alderson said Eco360 has a permanent depot where it accepts hazardous waste, such as batteries, for free. There are also permanent battery drop-offs scattered throughout the Moncton region, as well as a mobile depot that's put in a different location every week.

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