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Discarded lithium-ion batteries spark fires at Kent County’s Department of Public Works disposal facilities – WGVU

November 7, 2023

DPW urging proper disposal.

“We’ve had six fires. So, that’s like across our department either at the landfill or at the recycling center.”

Earlier this year at the South Kent Landfill, an electric scooter’s lithium-ion battery caught fire. Katelyn Kikstra is Waste Reduction Educator with the Kent County Department of Public Works. She tells us more recently, a lithium-ion battery fire at the county’s Grand Rapids Recycling and Education Center shut down the facilities hopper.

“We weren’t able to process recycling for a really long time. We were able to hold some of the recycling. But that’s a vital service that our community relies on.”

The six battery fires have caused over 40 hours of lost operational time and approximately $90,000 in damages.

The battery fires pose a safety risk to employees. There are a variety of flammable and combustible materials that also enter the recycling stream. Lithium-ion batteries are found in common items like cell phones, electronic scooters, electric toothbrushes, and vaping devices to name just a few.

The DPW is urging residents to access its SafeChem program. There are five countywide sites where lithium-ion and rechargeable batteries can be safely disposed of free of charge.

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