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  • Writer's pictureTim Spears

Portland’s New Curbside Battery Collection: A Community Risk Reduction and Fire Prevention Initiative


Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) has recently launched a curbside collection service for household batteries, including lithium-ion batteries, as part of its broader waste management and sustainability efforts. This initiative is set to commence on July 1, aiming to provide residents with a convenient and safe method to dispose of batteries, thereby mitigating environmental hazards and reducing fire risks associated with improper battery disposal (Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, 2024).


What is the New Curbside Collection Service?


Starting this summer, Portland residents can place used household batteries in a clear plastic bag on top of their recycling bin for curbside pickup. This service is designed to handle various battery types, including lithium-ion, which are commonly found in electronics such as smartphones, laptops, and e-bikes. The collected batteries will be safely recycled, keeping hazardous materials out of landfills and reducing the risk of fires caused by damaged or improperly disposed batteries (Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, 2024).


Why is Proper Battery Disposal Important?


Lithium-ion batteries, widely used for their efficiency and long life, pose significant risks if not handled correctly. These batteries can overheat, catch fire, or even explode if damaged or improperly disposed of. Such incidents are not uncommon, as seen in various reported cases of fires in recycling facilities and waste collection trucks caused by batteries thrown into regular trash or recycling bins (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2024a; National Fire Protection Association [NFPA], 2022).


In 2023, the number of fires linked to lithium-ion batteries increased by 46% in the UK alone, with fire services responding to 921 battery-related fires, nearly a third of which involved e-bikes. Improper disposal of these batteries can lead to serious fires, causing extensive damage and posing significant risks to waste management workers and the public (Reals, 2024).


In the United States, lithium-ion batteries are responsible for a significant portion of fires in the waste and recycling industry. A U.S. EPA report from 2021 noted that lithium-ion batteries were likely responsible for 245 fires across 64 waste facilities from 2013 to 2020, leading to considerable damage and operational disruptions (Waste Advantage Magazine, 2023). The financial impact of these incidents is substantial, with fires in the recycling industry costing millions of dollars annually.




Risks Associated with Improper Disposal:

  • Fire Hazards: Damaged batteries can initiate thermal runaway, leading to fires or explosions (Underwriters Laboratories, 2023).

  • Environmental Hazards: Toxic chemicals from batteries can leach into the soil and water, causing environmental damage (EPA, 2024b).

  • Health Risks: Exposure to hazardous materials in batteries can pose serious health risks to waste workers and the general public (EPA, 2024b; EPA, 2024a).


How Does This Initiative Support Community Risk Reduction?


The new curbside battery collection service is a crucial part of Portland’s community risk reduction (CRR) strategy. CRR involves identifying local risks and implementing measures to mitigate those risks, thereby enhancing community safety and resilience (NFPA, 2024). By providing a safe and convenient disposal method, Portland’s initiative aims to reduce the incidence of battery-related fires and environmental contamination.


CRR Benefits of the Initiative:

  • Increased Safety: Reducing the likelihood of fires in waste management facilities and during transportation.

  • Environmental Protection: Preventing toxic materials from entering the ecosystem.

  • Public Awareness: Educating the community about the importance of proper battery disposal and fire safety.


Q: Why can’t I just throw batteries in the trash?


A: Throwing batteries in the trash poses significant fire risks and environmental hazards. Batteries can get damaged during trash compaction, leading to fires that are difficult to control and can spread quickly (EPA, 2024b; EPA, 2024a).


Portland's curbside battery collection service is a forward-thinking initiative that addresses critical aspects of community risk reduction and fire prevention. By providing a safe and convenient way to dispose of hazardous batteries, the city is taking proactive steps to protect its residents, workers, and the environment from the risks associated with improper battery disposal. This initiative not only enhances public safety but also promotes sustainability, aligning with Portland’s commitment to environmental stewardship and community well-being.


Engage with Us:


What are your thoughts on the new battery collection service? Have you experienced any issues with battery disposal in the past? Share your experiences and suggestions in the comments below. Let's work together to make our community safer and more sustainable!


References:


EPA. (2024a). How to safely dispose of e-cigarettes: Information for individuals. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/hw/how-safely-dispose-e-cigarettes-information-individuals.


EPA. (2024b). Used lithium-ion batteries. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/recycle/used-lithium-ion-batteries.


National Fire Protection Association. (2022). Lithium-ion battery safety. Retrieved from https://www.nfpa.org/education.


National Fire Protection Association. (2024). Community risk reduction handout. Retrieved from https://www.nfpa.org/CRRHandout.


Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. (2024). New curbside battery collection service. Retrieved from https://www.portland.gov/bps/battery-collection.


Reals, K. (2024). Fires caused by lithium-ion batteries up 46% last year. Retrieved from https://www.britsafe.org/safety-management/2024/fires-caused-by-lithium-ion-batteries-up-46-last-year


Waste Advantage Magazine. (2023). The growing clarion call of concern about lithium-ion battery disposal. Retrieved from https://wasteadvantagemag.com/the-growing-clarion-call-of-concern-about-lithium-ion-battery-disposal/

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