It could have been a plume of dust rising from the trash pit at Metro South transfer station. But it wasn’t.
A bulldozer operator saw the quickly growing smoke cloud and acted.
When batteries die
Batteries can't go in the garbage or recycling. Dispose of them safely.
Find a battery recycler near you
He used his machine to pick up the source of the smoldering—the battery inside a trashed e-scooter—and moved it to the side of the pit. Co-workers doused the materials in the pit with water to keep them from catching fire.
This year, batteries inside various discarded electronic devices have ignited fires at both Metro transfer stations— places where businesses and residents bring loads garbage and recycling.
While you may never ride a scooter, let alone throw one in the trash, many other items you may use regularly have batteries in them too. And no batteries can go in the garbage or recycling.
Items you use every day run on energy stored in batteries
Batteries come in all shapes and forms. Some are rechargeable and some aren’t.
They are made of lithium, lithium-ion, nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, alkaline, carbon zinc, mercury and silver oxide—to name a few.
And their hazards vary too.
Rechargeable lithium batteries are designed to store a lot of energy so they keep not only scooters but also laptops, smartphones and other items running for hours.
But when they’re dead for good, they can’t go in the garbage or the recycling. “If they go in the trash and they break open,” says Chelsea Althauser, hazardous waste supervisor at Metro South, “they pose a fire threat.”
“With different types of batteries, the fire hazard isn’t there but the toxicity is,” Althauser adds, “We don’t want them in the landfill.”
That is why batteries should be disposed of safely. Retailers and facilities all over greater Portland take batteries for safe disposal. Metro's Find a Recycler tool can help you find a place.
Recycling cast-off gadgets
So you’ve removed the batteries from your broken, obsolete or no-longer-wanted stuff. Now what?
If your items still work, consider donating them. In any case, it's important to keep these items out of the garbage.
- Take laptops, tablets, keyboards and mice to any Oregon E-Cycles collection site for free.
- Find a recycler for other electronics, power tools, or large metal items.
Still have questions about easy and affordable ways to recycle or dispose of your gadgets? Ask Metro.