The Lebanon Solid Waste Division, in partnership with the Lebanon Fire Department, is asking for your help to prevent landfill fires.
Nationally, fires at solid waste facilities have increased by 40%. That increase is also being seen here in Lebanon. Over the past several months, the Lebanon landfill has extinguished 6 fires. These fires were quickly responded to and extinguished by the Solid Waste Division staff.
Fires do happen at landfills. There are thousands that occur annually around the county. They can be started when someone throws stove ash out with their trash, compactors run over improperly disposed of electronics, or when chemicals are combined in the back of a garbage collection truck.
Improper Disposal of Electronics
Most of the fires at the Lebanon Landfill have been directly related to improper disposal of electronic devices that have lithium-ion batteries. Handheld devices like cell phones, tablets, e-readers, and other battery-operated devices are discarded with someone’s trash and then run over with the landfill trash compactor. The result is immediate ignition with flames. This is extremely dangerous.
The Hidden Dangers of Batteries
There are hidden dangers tied to improper handling and disposal of batteries at their end-of-life. Many consumers are unaware of these dangers, which has led to a surge in fires at recycling and waste facilities across the country. A recent article in Resource Recycling surveyed 119 MRFs nationwide on the topic of lithium-based batteries entering their waste stream, with 50% of respondents seeing an increase in fires the past two years and 89% experiencing or suspecting fires caused by lithium-based batteries.
Disposing Ashes and Embers
Garbage cans, garbage trucks, garages, homes and grass fires are just some of the situations in which hot embers have ignited and caused massive damage. Here are some tips for dealing with hot ashes/embers:
- Ashes/embers can stay hot for days after a fire.
- When disposing of ashes outside DON’T dump them on a combustible surface.
- Use water to wet the ashes/embers to make sure they are completely out.
- Only use an approved metal ash bucket. It should have a tight fitting metal lid and a double-bottom.
- Don’t dump ashes outside on a windy day. The wind can whip up what may have seemed cool embers, making them fiery hot and sending them traveling to ignite nearby combustibles.
- Never burn garbage, wrapping paper, plastic, cardboard or anything not specifically approved for use in a fireplace. These items can lead to a chimney fire, can cause large embers to exit the flue igniting nearby combustibles AND the ashes/embers can be unpredictable.
- NEVER dump ashes into a plastic container, cardboard box, bag, or anything or place where combustible fluids of fumes are present.
The Bottom Line
We need your help. The Solid Waste Division offers several recycling programs for items that can cause fires that could impact public health and/or the environment. Items like electronic devices, rechargeable batteries, automotive batteries, and household hazardous wastes are collected for recycling or proper disposal.
Lebanon is also fortunate to have a dedicated and well-trained staff. Every day they come to work to serve residents and businesses from the Upper Valley.
Doing Your Part
The next group needed to help fight fires are the residents and businesses throughout the Upper Valley. We need you to do your part and participate in regular recycling programs and household hazardous waste events to keep these items out of the landfill and reduce the dangers associated with them. Your participation is critical to the success of these diversion programs.
If you have questions regarding recycling or proper disposal of an item, please check out the Lebanon Solid Waste & Recycling site at LebanonNH.gov/SolidWaste or email Marc Morgan, Lebanon Solid Waste Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.