Don’t throw out that busted cell phone or laptop. Don’t put it in the normal recycling bin either.
That’s the message from city planners across the country after a growing number of fires in garbage trucks and at waste facilities linked to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
The common rechargeable batteries were linked to 65 percent of the waste facility fires in California last year. The state recently launched a public awareness campaign to encourage proper disposal of the batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries have also sparked serious fires in garbage trucks, including in New York City last year.
Besides cellphones and laptops, lithium-ion batteries are found in cameras, power tools, electric scooters and electric cars.
While officials in the City of Phoenix’s Public Works Department say they aren’t aware of any significant issues at Valley waste transfer stations – most of the fires there have been linked to improperly discarded pool chemicals – researchers at Arizona State University are working on ways to make lithium batteries safer.
Lithium-ion batteries typically catch fire from overheating or from microscopic lithium “needles” – known as dendrites – that can sprout on a battery surface, according to ASU professor Hanqing Jiang.
Those needles can puncture the component in a battery that keeps the oppositely charged elements separate, he said.
Jiang led a team that recently published research showing a layer of soft silicone inside a lithium-metal battery can act as a shock absorber and prevent the formation of dendrites. Jiang said the technique could be applied to both lithium-ion and lithium-air batteries.
“Our idea is to remove the force,” he said. “With no force, there's no dendrite growth.”
What to do with unwanted lithium-ion batteries
Residents haveseveral options
to safely dispose of lithium-ion batteries. All Home Depots, Lowes and Best Buy stores will recycle lithium-ion batteries.Click here for a list of recycling locations in the Valley
. Locally,E-Green IT Solutions
also collect and recycle lithium-ion batteries. Phoenix residents can take unwanted batteries to thecity’s monthly household hazardous waste events
. The events run from September through May.Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app
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