Lithium-Ion Battery: Hazardous Waste
At the plastic waste treatment facility in the Nanetsu Garbage Collection Association (南越清掃組合), located within Fukui Prefecture’s Echizen City, there have been repeated instances of smoke and fire, as a result of not properly sorting and disposing of lithium-ion batteries, often used in smartphones and other electronics. Lithium-ion batteries are becoming commonly used in more devices such as electronic cigarettes (“e-cigarette”), and wireless internet devices. With a number of close class occurring in November, the Nanetsu Garbage Collection Association strongly pleaded, “Please dispose of hazardous waste properly.”
In a summary by the association, there have been 8 cases since August of last year, where a collection of plastic waste caused fumes. On November 18th, in the same facility concerning a plastic waste compressor, burning garbage was seen on the conveyor belt; among the fire-devastated area, a deformed lithium-ion battery was found. Other past incidents can be traced back to cell phone batteries and e-cigarettes.
Under strong impact or pressure, a lithium-ion battery becomes deformed and can cause a fire due to the potential heat and energy it holds. According to the association, lithium-ion batteries would get caught within the plastic separation machine, become deformed, and have a high risk of resulting in a fire. By the end of last year, eight fire and smoke detectors were installed, as well as additional fire sprinklers.
“We put as much effort as we an in preventing fires in its early stages, but incidences can sometimes be unavoidable,” says an executive, pleading for everyone to be thorough in separating waste.
According to the Japan Containers and Packaging Recycling Association, across the nation’s recycling centres in the current year (up to November 7th), there have been 202 cases of smoke and fire related incidents. Among the 202 cases, 97 were likely caused by lithium-ion batteries. With the increased use of electronic products, such as e-cigarettes and smartphones, the number of incidents continue to increase.
The association pleaded, “Lithium-ion batteries are used in products such as e-cigarettes and various wireless devices. In the case where it is difficult to extract the battery, please dispose of the whole product as hazardous waste, even if the body is made of plastic.”
When purchasing replacements for small electronic products, powered by lithium-ion batteries, at the places such as large electronic stores and other retailers, they can also taking the old products for collection and recycling. According to the incorporated Japan Portable Rechargeable Battery Recycling Center’s homepage, within the Nanetsu Garbage Collection Association’s jurisdiction (which includes Echizen City, Minami-echizen Town, and Ikeda Town), there are 23 shops accepting small electronics for recycling within Echizen City, and 2 shops within Minami-echizen Town.