Fire! Gadgets thrown in the trash are causing battery blazes at waste centers

We’ve read countless stories over the years of unstable lithium-ion batteries suddenly exploding, including in smartphones, hoverboards, and vape pens — sometimes with tragic consequences — so it’s kind of surprising we’re not more careful about how we dispose of them.

Left inside trashed electronics that can include anything from those listed above to laptops, cameras, and power tools, the batteries are causing fires at garbage and recycling centers across the country, according to a USA Today report.

Take California. The state blamed exploding batteries for 65 percent of fires at its waste facilities in 2017. The issue has become so serious that it’s launched an awareness campaign to highlight the dangers and to ask consumers to stop throwing their old battery-powered gadgets into the trash.

New York, too, is facing similar challenges. USA Today’s report points out that in March a battery caused a fire at a recycling facility in Queens that burned for two days and caused disruption to nearby train services.

Garbage truck workers are also at risk. An incident in New York City last year saw a lithium-ion battery explode as the truck compacted the trash, setting fire to the burnables inside.

The problem is that if the battery’s exposed metal parts touch something metallic, sparks can fly, resulting in a blaze. Damaged batteries can also malfunction with similar results.

George Kerchner, executive director of the Rechargeable Battery Association, told the news outlet that some consumers get rid of the batteries without too much thought, “hoping that somebody at the end of the line will recycle them eventually.”

But he cautioned that “these are high-energy batteries, no question about it. If they’re not properly handled, they can catch on fire.”

With demand for the technology continuing to rise, it’s all the more important that consumers understand the possible consequences of tossing used batteries into the garbage.

For ways to recycle them, try doing an online search to find local services willing to handle them. Call2recycle, for example, is a useful source of information.

With the Recycling Locator at Earth911 you can select batteries by type to see a map of the closest safe disposal centers closest to your zip code.

Alternatively, save them up for your next visit to a Home Depot, Best Buy, or Lowe’s, all of which recycle lithium-ion batteries for free.

To be on the safe side, when you’re done with a removable lithium-ion battery, be sure to place it by itself inside a closed plastic bag to isolate the terminals, or simply put tape over them. That way you’ll reduce the chances of your battery ending up in the news for reducing a garbage truck to a burned-out shell, or worse.

Updated May 22 with information on Earth911.

Emerging Tech

Space tourism is coming, and it’s going to wreak havoc on Earth’s atmosphere

NASA has announced it will be allowing tourists to visit the International Space Station. But experts who spoke to Digital Trends warn that space tourism could hurt the environment by damaging our planet's fragile ozone layer.
Emerging Tech

How re-engineering an old technology could give us EVs with 700 miles of range

Battery supply has been a critical limiting factor in electric vehicle adoption. Now Portland-based XNRGI has developed a battery based on old silicon wafer technology, and it could revolutionize the battery industry.
Emerging Tech

From the moon to mass production: 10 pieces of modern tech indebted to Apollo

This article is part of Apollo: A Lunar Legacy, a multi-part series that explores the technological advances behind Apollo 11, their influence on modern day, and what's next for the moon. You may have heard that freeze-dried food was…
News

Change from within: How the CTA could bring diversity to the tech industry

With a sea of white, male faces as homogeneous as Wonder Bread, tech has an inclusivity problem -- and the trade group behind CES has answers. This week, it unveiled a variety of new initiatives and policies to foster diversity.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.
Product Review

Price be damned, the OnePlus 7 Pro is bigger and faster than ever before

OnePlus has delivered its biggest, and fastest smartphone ever in the OnePlus 7 Pro. It’s also more expensive than before, with a $750 price tag hanging from the most technically impressive model.
Mobile

Leak shows Android running on purported Nokia feature phone

A leaked image appears to show a Nokia feature phone running a modified version of Android, complete with Google Voice Search, YouTube, and all. This would be a market-changing collaboration between Google and HMD.
Mobile

The best Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus cases to protect your $1,000 phone

Can't get enough of big phones? The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is absolutely up your alley. But it's still fragile, and damage is easily gathered through normal life. Protect it with the best Galaxy S10 Plus cases.
Mobile

Apple’s iOS 12.4 brings back Walkie-Talkie, makes improvements to Apple News+

Apple has finally taken the wraps off of iOS 12.4, bringing a number of tweaks to Apple News+, plus the reinstatement of the Walkie-Talkie feature on the Apple Watch, which was disabled after the discovery of a security flaw.
Mobile

Apple is reportedly about to buy Intel’s modem business

According to a report, Apple could be buying out Intel's 5G modem business, which would give Apple at least some of the intellectual property and staff required to develop its own modems for iPhones.
Social Media

Facebook admits to Messenger Kids security flaw but insists it’s fixed

Facebook has confirmed it missed a flaw in its Messenger Kids app that meant children could have communicated with users who hadn’t been parent-approved. The firm says it has now fixed the issue and contacted those affected.
Mobile

Huawei’s blacklisted status contributes to more 5G decision delays in the U.K.

The decision over which companies will be involved in creating the U.K.’s burgeoning 5G network has been delayed again, and Huawei's presence on the U.S. Entity List is partly to blame.
Mobile

Honor puts a shiny target on the back of its desirable new 9X phones

Honor has announced the Honor 9X and Honor 9X Pro. The two new phones have currently been unveiled only in China, but the company often goes on to release its new devices internationally, provided it can overcome some challenges.
Mobile

Huawei denies reports it is helping North Korea build its wireless network

Tensions between Chinese mobile giant Huawei and the U.S. are likely to rise even higher after the Washington Post reported the company has allegedly been secretly working with a Chinese state-owned firm to build and maintain North Korea's…