garbage fire

Last year, after a prohibited item was thrown in  North Lincoln Sanitary Service’s compactor, a fire started that required the fire department to come put it out.

Curbside haulers in Lincoln County have all experienced the proverbial “dumpster fire” only in a truck or compactor due to prohibited materials like batteries, propane and liquid fuels, chemicals, and barbecue briquettes being thrown in the trash.

They don’t assume that anyone is doing it maliciously, but not only is it a danger to their employees, but also to the transfer stations and mixed recycling facilities who are seeing an uptick in those prohibited items. The employees who pick up the trash don’t go through the trash, so they don’t know what’s being tossed.

“The garbage isn’t a catch-all for everything,” said Colin Teem of North Lincoln Sanitary Service.

About a year ago, North Lincoln Sanitary Service had such a fire. As the source of the fire was from a chemical reaction, it couldn’t be put out by water nor a fire extinguisher, so the fire department had to come, said Teem.

“It’s quite expensive equipment to just burn,” Teem said, as the average truck is about $300,000 and transfer trailers run around $160,000.

Lithium-Ion batteries are one of the culprits as they are more common now and reaching the end of their lifecycle. If they are punctured or compressed, they release chemicals that were under pressure. They are generally used in cell phones, laptops and rechargeable power tools.

“They’re often small, but they pack a punch,” Teem said.

While they collected a fair amount during the solid waste event, there isn’t a viable way for them to accept them year-round as they are extremely expensive to recycle, Teem said. They do however accept cell phones year-round for recycling.

Still, the batteries are a small part of the fire risk. While the next household hazardous waste event won’t take place until next summer, some can be taken to a transfer station year-round. For more information call North Lincoln Sanitary Service at (541) 994-5555.


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