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.


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.