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Improper disposal of rechargeable batteries is leading to more and more dangerous fires


Contact: Tracy Pawelski 

Pennsylvania’s waste and recycling industry and the state’s top firefighters encourage citizens to dispose of these batteries safely

Harrisburg, PA (Nov. 13, 2023) – Pennsylvania’s waste and recycling industry is teaming up with the Office of the State Fire Commissioner to raise awareness about a growing epidemic of fires caused by the improper disposal of rechargeable batteries in recycling containers and trash bags.

November 15, 2023 is “America Recycles Day,” a day to remind citizens that recycling is a convenient way to make a positive difference on the environment as well as the importance of knowing what can be safely thrown into the recycling bin or garbage bag.

 Rechargeable batteries power everything from electronic devices like cell phones, laptops, ebikes, e-cigarettes, electronic toothbrushes, and remote controls to the batteries used in electric vehicles and even children’s toys. While not all rechargeable batteries contain lithium, many longer-life batteries increasingly do. 

“The incorrect disposal of lithium batteries in recycling bins and trash bags is leading to dangerous fires that threaten the safety of waste and recycling workers, emergency responders and the general public,” said Mary Keenan, executive director of the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association (PWIA). “As more rechargeable batteries get improperly placed in curbside residential waste or recycling bins, the safety risks related to their combustibility are increasing.”

“Fires caused by rechargeable batteries present a variety of unique challenges for first responders, as they burn hotter and are difficult to completely extinguish,” Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Tom Cook said. “As we head into the holiday shopping season, where so many popular devices are being bought for the first time, or even replaced, we want everyone to know how important it is to follow the manufacturer’s directions, and proper disposal practices.”  

In March 2022, a fire attributed to a rechargeable battery burned down a Penn Waste facility in York County, PA. New York City has reported a three-fold increase of fires on collection trucks since last year that are attributed to the improper disposal of rechargeable batteries.2  “PWIA members are working to spot and remove batteries from our trucks and facilities to prevent fires from starting in the first place,” continued Keenan. “We also are collaborating closely with first responders to fight fires more effectively when they do start,” continued Keenan.

Consumer information about proper disposal, including local drop-off locations, can be found at Call2Recycle. Insert your zip code to find a convenient drop-off location – such as Home Depot, Lowe’s or other similar big box stores – that accepts used rechargeable batteries. Additional information can be found at the recently launched Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, which is dedicated to questions on lithium-ion batteries. 

“November 15 is a good day to remember that recycling is the environmentally responsible thing to do,” said Mary Keenan. “At the same time, we want the public to know not to put these batteries in their trash bags or recycling bins in the first place.” 

Pennsylvania’s waste industry collects and processes the majority of residential and commercial recyclables in Pennsylvania and has invested more than $66 million in state-of-the-art recycling facilities, the latest equipment and technology, along with the employees who collect and process recyclables. 

About PWIA 

The Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association represents the private sector companies that collect and process recyclables and collect and dispose of municipal solid waste in Pennsylvania. PWIA works closely with the National Waste & Recycling Association to advance safe practices in waste collection, processing and disposal. For more information, visit

About the Pennsylvania Office of State Fire Commissioner (OSFC) 

The OSFC maintains a close working relationship with Pennsylvania’s 2,400 fire departments and their personnel. The commissioner and his staff function as support and resource personnel for these agencies in dealing with issues such as volunteer recruitment and retention, firefighter safety, intervention programs dealing with juvenile fire-setters, community safety education, and administers the Relief Association Program. It is also responsible for administering a variety of state grants and the State Fire Academy, providing comprehensive resident and weekend training programs for firefighters, rescue personnel, arson investigators, hazardous materials teams, and other emergency responders.

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  1. York Daily Record: “1 year after devastating fire, York County recycling facility to reopen”

  2. Gothamist: “Lithium-ion batteries a growing fire hazard in NYC garbage trucks, DSNY says”