Battery fires common in gadget recycling

MADISON, Wis. – What happens to gadgets when you’re done with them? Too often, they explode. One thing that you can help with the environment is have a proper waste disposal so make sure you hire a waste disposal Northern Beaches in your area.

As we enter new-gadget buying season, spare a moment to meet the people who end up handling your old stuff. Isauro Flores-Hernandez, who takes apart used smartphones and tablets for a living, keeps thick gloves, metal tongs and a red fireproof bin by his desk here at Cascade Asset Management, an electronics scrap processor. He uses them to whisk away devices with batteries that burst into flames when he opens them for recycling.

One corner of his desk is charred from an Apple iPhone that began smoking and then exploded after he opened it in 2016. Last year, his co-worker had to slide away an exploding iPad battery and evacuate the area while it burned out.

Around the world, garbage trucks and recycling centers are going up in flames. The root of the problem: volatile lithium-ion batteries sealed inside our favorite electronics from Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and more. They’re not only dangerous but also difficult to take apart – making e-waste less profitable, and contributing to a growing recycling crisis.

These days, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are in smartphones, tablets, laptops, ear buds, toys, power tools, scooters, hoverboards and e-cigarettes.

For all their benefits at making our devices slim, powerful and easy to recharge, lithium-ion batteries have some big costs. They contain cobalt, often mined in inhumane circumstances in places like the Congo. And when crushed, punctured, ripped or dropped, lithium-ion batteries can produce what the industry euphemistically calls a “thermal event.”

It happens because these batteries short circuit when the super-thin separator between their positive and negative parts gets breached. Remember Samsung’s exploding Note 7 smartphone? That was a lithium-ion thermal event.

Old devices end up in trouble when we throw them in the trash, stick them in the recycling bin, or even responsibly bring them to an e-waste center. There isn’t official data on these fires, but the anecdotal evidence is stark. Since the spring of 2018 alone, batteries have been suspected as the cause of recycling fires in New York, Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana, Idaho, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. In California, a recent survey of waste management facilities found 83 percent had at least one fire over the last two years, of which 40 percent were caused by lithium-ion batteries.

Statistically, the fire rates are low – 1 out of 3,000 mobile device batteries that Cascade handles experiences a thermal event. But when batteries spark other material, the result can be catastrophic. In 2016, the Shoreway Environmental Center that serves Silicon Valley suffered a 4-alarm fire it suspects was caused by a lithium-ion battery that went undetected amid other junk in its sorting systems. The fire damage cost $8.5 million.

There’s plenty of blame to go around. People shouldn’t carelessly throw battery-powered electronics into the bin. Local governments haven’t figured out good ways for us to hand off this common but dangerous material. Some gadget makers, including Apple, are taking steps to make recycling easier.

But ultimately, this is an environmental problem of the tech industry’s own design. And it’s time they own it.

It’s bad enough that lithium-ion batteries are dangerous. But often, gadgets designed to be thin and portable make the batteries especially difficult to remove.

Smaller gadgets with lithium-ion batteries like vape pens and headphones are more difficult to detect in a pile of waste, and can be even harder to disassemble. Apple’s wireless AirPods, for one, have been dubbed all but impossible to recycle by iFixit because they contain three batteries, each sealed inside plastic.

It’s more than just a safety issue, says Cascade’s CEO Neil Peters-Michaud. Gluing components together and hiding the batteries also makes recycling less profitable. For the training, safety precautions and effort that went into removing that iPad battery, Cascade will make about 50 cents to $1 in commodities. “Labor and time are money,” Peters-Michaud says.

“I just don’t understand why Apple doesn’t include design features that its users and the reuse-and-recycling community can benefit from to extend the life of their products safely,” he says.

China bans foreign waste – but what will happen to the world’s recycling?

The dominant position that China holds in global manufacturing means that for many years China has also been the largest global importer of many types of recyclable materials. Last year, Chinese manufacturers imported 7.3m metric tonnes of waste plastics from developed countries including the UK, the EU, the US and Japan. If your business generates non-recyclable and non-hardarous waste consider it done with rubbish removal Northern Beaches Sydney.

However, in July 2017, China announced big changes in the quality control placed on imported materials, notifying the World Trade Organisation that it will ban imports of 24 categories of recyclables and solid waste by the end of the year. This campaign against yang laji or “foreign garbage” applies to plastic, textiles and mixed paper and will result in China taking a lot less material as it replaces imported materials with recycled material collected in its own domestic market, from its growing middle-class and Western-influenced consumers.

The impact of this will be far-reaching. China is the dominant market for recycled plastic. There are concerns that much of the waste that China currently imports, especially the lower grade materials, will have nowhere else to go.

This applies equally to other countries including the EU27, where 87% of the recycled plastic collected was exported directly, or indirectly (via Hong Kong), to China. Japan and the US also rely on China to buy their recycled plastic. Last year, the US exported 1.42m tons of scrap plastics, worth an estimated US$495m to China.

Plastic problems

So what will happen to the plastic these countries collect through household recycling systems once the Chinese refuse to accept it? What are the alternatives?

Plastics collected for recycling could go to energy recovery (incineration). They are, after all, a fossil-fuel based material and burn extremely well – so on a positive note, they could generate electricity and improve energy self-sufficiency.

They could also go to landfill (not ideal) – imagine the press headlines. Alternatively, materials could be stored until new markets are found. This also brings problems, however – there have been hundreds of fires at sites where recyclable materials are stored.

Time to change our relationship with plastic?

While it is a reliable material, taking many forms from cling film (surround wrap) to flexible packaging to rigid materials used in electronic items, the problems caused by plastic, most notably litter and ocean plastics, are receiving increasing attention.

One way forward might be to limit its functions. Many disposable items are made from plastic. Some of them are disposable by necessity for hygiene purposes – for instance, blood bags and other medical items – but many others are disposable for convenience.

Looking at the consumer side of things, there are ways of cutting back on plastic. Limiting the use of plastic bags through financial disincentives is one initiative that has shown results and brought about changes in consumer behaviour. In France, some disposable plastic items are banned and in the Britain, leading pub chain Wetherspoons has banned disposable, one-use plastic drinking straws.

Deposit and return schemes for plastic bottles (and drink cans) could also incentivise behaviour. Micro-beads, widely used in cosmetics as exfoliants, are now a target as the damage they do becomes increasingly apparent and the UK government has announced plans to ban their use in some products.

This follows similar actions announced by the US and Canada, with several EU nations, South Korea and New Zealand also planning to implement bans.

Many local authorities collect recycling that is jumbled together. But a major side effect of this type of collection is that while it is convenient for the householder, there are high contamination levels which leads to reduced material quality. This will mean it is either sold for lower prices into a limited market, will need to be reprocessed through sorting plants, or will be incinerated or put in landfill. But changes to recycling collections and reprocessing to improve the quality of materials could be expensive.

Alternatively, recycled plastic could be used to provide chemicals to the petrochemical sector, fuels to the transport and aviation sectors, food packaging and many other applications.

The problems we are now facing are caused by China’s global dominance in manufacturing and the way many countries have relied on one market to solve their waste and recycling problems. The current situation offers us an opportunity to find new solutions to our waste problem, increase the proportion of recycled plastic in our own manufactured products, improve the quality of recovered materials and to use recycled material in new ways.

What happens to rubbish at the landfill?

Office rubbish removal Sydney will always be around whether you like or not they will fix your garbage. In Brisbane, many households depend on the council’s garbage collection service to dispose of their waste. However, this service is not a good option for those households that produce more rubbish than an garbage bin can hold. Many people in this situation have no other choice but to take their rubbish to the tip themselves, from where it is taken to landfills.

Either way, landfill waste isn’t good for the environment. Much of the waste that we produce can be recycled. Yet it ends up in a landfill, where it can take centuries to degrade. Not only is this harmful to the environment, but it also consumes valuable landfill space, which we’re running out of rapidly.

As the owner of a Brisbane rubbish removal business, I urge you not to dispose waste into landfills unless it is absolutely necessary. Today, I will explain what happens to rubbish when it is disposed into a landfill. Hopefully, this post will inspire you to start disposing your waste in an environmentally friendly manner so together we can all do our bit to reduce landfall waste.

Let’s start by look at the stats.

Current state of landfills in Australia

According to the ABS, the volume of rubbish disposed into Australian landfills increased by 12% from 2001 to 2007. While 19 million tonnes of waste were disposed in 2001, more than 21.3 million tonnes of were disposed in 2007.

Of the total amount of waste produced by Australians, almost half (48%) of waste was disposed into landfills in 2007. 60% of municipal waste, 42% of construction waste and 44% of industrial and commercial waste went to landfills in 2007.

So, what happens to waste in landfills?

In modern landfills, waste is segregated into municipal solid waste, construction and demolition waste and white goods. These types of waste are disposed separately, while some recyclable waste is diverted to recycling depots.

The waste in landfills is rolled over and turned into a compact pile with the help of heavy and large equipment. After the pile reaches a prescribed height, a layer of dirt is added and a second pile is added.

The bottom of the pile of rubbish is lined with rubber to prevent contamination of ground water. This ground water is also collected and processed using a network of pipes.

Gas wells are also drilled into the rubbish pile to collect methane produced in landfills. This methane is put to good use in generators or for heating.

In theory, the system of a landfill works quite well. However, it is not always possible to prevent contamination of ground water or 100% collection of methane. Moreover, these systems have an associated cost factor to function properly.

What about landfills in Brisbane?

With the landfills in Brisbane, the treatment of rubbish is the same as outlined above. Waste is first segregated, compacted and then buried into engineered cells in landfills. Moreover, each cell has a layer of clay and high density plastic to prevent contamination of the environment. The waste is also capped with clay before another pile is placed on top of it.

The Brisbane Council is working very hard to reduce the amount of rubbish that is sent to landfill, but they cannot do this alone. They need your help.

If you’d like professional help to dispose of your rubbish in the correct manner, then contact us at 4 Waste Removals. Our team will responsibly remove all your unwanted rubbish.

Conclusion:

When rubbish is disposed of in landfills, it is segregated into different types, rolled over and compacted into a pile. The waste is lined with clay before another pile is added to it. Moreover, the bottom and sides of the waste pile are lined to prevent contamination of ground water. Landfills also produce methane and it is collected with the help of pipes.

While landfills work great in theory, in practice methane does escape into the environment and ground water also gets contaminated. As such, we must all do our part to reduce waste from reaching landfills.

Australia’s waste industry is in crisis, and it’s a warning to the world about China’s market power

This green waste disposal is easy to dump in a place where it can be use as a fertilizer.

  • China’s sudden ban on the importation of recyclable waste threatens household recycling bin collection in Australia.
  • The local waste industry is in a mounting crisis and says recycling bin pickup contracts with councils across Australia face default without urgent action by state and federal governments.
  • Some bin collection companies have been stockpiling recycled waste, hoping that prices will improve in the future.

The recycling bins of suburban Australia face an uncertain future after almost three decades of training their owners to sort their rubbish into trash and recoverable materials.

China’s sudden decision to stop importing waste material for recycling has turned the economics of recycling markets in Australia — and in other parts of the world — on its head.

Picking up recycling bins is no longer profitable because much of what’s inside them can’t now be sold to China for processing, as the world has done for the past 20 years.

The fallout is enormous and reaches into every home and business in Australia. At risk is a multi billion dollar industry in Australia and the change has triggered crisis talks between waste collection firms and local governments around the country. It also appears likely, at this point, that households may end up having to pay more for their waste collection.

Industry insiders say the costs of picking up the bins is now such a loss-making exercise that some companies may soon simply default on contracts, leading to a real possibility that some towns and suburbs in Australia may cease to have waste collection services.

And it’s all because of an administrative decision by Chinese authorities.

Australia produces about 64 million tonnes of waste, or about 2.7 tonnes for each person, according to government estimates for 2014-15. About 60% of that is recycled in some form.

China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection in July last year filed a notice to the World Trade Organisation advising that recovered mixed paper, textiles, plastics and some metals would be banned from import.

The ban, an extension of China’s Operation Green Fence policy to prohibit the importation of unwashed and contaminated recyclable materials, came into effect in January, barring 24 categories of solid waste, sending already weak prices for recyclable material to rock bottom and making some materials unsaleable and ultimately destined for landfill or for stockpiling.

According to the latest official numbers available, China bought 49.6 million metric tonnes of rubbish in 2015 and the figure is probably much higher because of illegal imports. That year, the US shipped more than 16 million metric tonnes of waste to China.

But last year China created what it called the National Sword program to stop smuggling of foreign waste. China now says this flow of waste has seriously polluted its environment. It wants its industry to deal with its own waste rather than process the world’s.

More than 20% of Australia’s entire annual trade is with China and the impact of a simple policy change will not be lost on other sectors with high exposure to the Chinese market, including mining and agriculture.

Councils across Australia have contracts with waste companies who then move the recycled material to other companies for processing and shipping offshore.

These local government bodies are now faced with contractors who suddenly have to collect recycling bins whose contents are almost worthless and will cost them twice as much to deal with. The collectors want renegotiate their contracts with a higher fee.

Crisis talks

The Municipal Association of Victoria, the body representing local councils, has been in talks with industry every day this week. And the state governments in both Victoria and New South Wales have been holding crisis talks with waste industry and councils.

But it appears inevitable that the recycling companies will need to be paid more, at least in the short term, or they will default on their collection contracts with councils.

Recycling costs, by some estimates, could go to between $80 and $120 a tonne from about $40.

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council, representing interests of the more than 500 waste management businesses including Cleanaway, JJ Richards, Remondis, ResourceCo, Solo Resource Recovery, Sims Metal Management, Toxfree and Veolia, says recycling contracts across Australia face default without urgent action.

The council says the cancellation of kerbside and commercial recycling contracts would mean the end of the collection and recycling of paper, mixed plastics and some metal products.

“The NWRIC is urging all customers, including local government and commercial waste generators, to meet with their recycling supplier to plan for these sudden and unforeseen changes,” says Phil Richards, Chairman of the NWRIC.

The industry wants a renegotiation of contracts between local governments and recycling providers so that the risks are shares.

They say some stockpiling should be allowed, when safe, and federal government assistance is needed to open new export markets for Australian recyclable material.

In the long term, the reinvigoration of domestic waste recycling capacity is the best long term solution to this challenge, says the industry.

In NSW this week, Tonby Koury, the CEO of the Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association (WCRA), sent an email to members saying he’s seeking urgent intervention by the state government.

“Many of you will by now have heard about the bans by China to reduce the imports of recycled materials,” he wrote.

“For many years, we have relied on China to receive our excess mixed paper, cardboard and various plastic materials (in some cases with contamination rates of up to 15%).”

Khoury attended a meeting convened by the NSW Environment Protection Authority to discuss the recycling crisis.

“On behalf of Members, WCRA made it very clear to the NSW EPA that suitable urgent intervention will be required by the NSW Government,” he says.

He’s now a member of a lead steering committee to work on the likely impacts and short term contingencies needed.

“It is highly likely that recyclers (domestic and commercial) will start to encounter difficulty with the recycling options for dry co-mingled recyclables,” he says.

“In the meantime, please remember the significant investment that we all have in recycling. We cannot afford to get this wrong, nor should we be sending any mixed messages to the community about recycling as we do not want to potentially undermine 28 years of efforts (and success) in promoting the bin with the yellow lid.”

Stockpiling

Some waste collection businesses have been collecting from kerbside bins and then stockpiling recyclable maetrial, hoping that prices will improve.

According to Visy, based in Melbourne and one of the world’s largest privately owned paper, packaging and recycling companies, stockpiling is an environmental hazard and significantly increases the risk of fires.

“Both the above (China) policy change and flooding of alternative markets in Asia, which do not have the substantive processing capacity of China, has resulted in a very significant fall in export returns and in some cases certain materials are now unsaleables,” Visy told a parliamentary inquiry into waste.

“Most operators in the kerbside recycling industry have a heavy reliance on exporting a large portion of the recyclable materials recovered from kerbside collections,” says Visy.

“Export facing commodity sales are exposed to unavoidable volatility and financial risk. For the most part this risk has been borne by recycling operators as Councils have refused to be exposed to any volatility.

“In the case of recovered paper, the volatility leads not only to unreliable revenues from exported volumes, but also volatile input costs to domestic re-manufacturers.”

Hayley Munro-Smith, an industry analyst at IBISworld, says landfills and recycling facilities in Australia will struggle to cope with the additional waste volumes that are no longer destined for China.

“Recycling facilities nationwide will likely approach full capacity, and recyclable waste may need to be sent to landfills alongside disposable waste,” she told Business Insider.
Council rates will probably rise

“Local council rates and landfill levies will likely rise as authorities attempt to recover growing costs and stall the increasing volumes of waste arriving at landfills.

“The Federal Government may arrange to increase volumes of recyclable waste exported to current waste trading partners, such as Malaysia, Thailand, Korea and Vietnam, mitigating some of the effect of the ban.

However, the ban presents a significant opportunity for local firms over the long term.

“Australian recycling companies may expand facilities and build new plants to take on rising quantities of waste,” says Munro-Smith.

“Recycling firms are expected to innovate to develop alternative uses and new markets for recycled materials, funded in part by increasing revenue from recycling processing operations.

“However, with significantly greater supply of recycled products entering the domestic market, the prices for recycled products may stagnate, negatively impacting revenue for Australian recycling firms.”

Gayle Sloan, CEO at the Waste Management Association of Australia, which bills itself as the peak national industry body, says the industry has been telling government for a long time that relying on the export markets for recyclables was dangerous.

“Now we find ourselves, with the change in China’s legislation, walking towards this inevitability,” she says.

“Whilst stockpiling is a legitimate business practice, we know that the community is not happy with simply stockpiling recyclable materials, they rightly want this material to be used in making other products in Australia- reducing reliance on natural material.

“It is not enough that products we purchase in Australia are capable of being recycled, we need to ensure that they are also made from recycled material,” said Ms Sloan, “in this way we can create real demand for commodities like those that households put in their yellow bins.”