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Use and Store Lithium Batteries Correctly

Reminder: Lithium-ion batteries cannot be co-mingled into the recycling stream and must be recycled at special stations.

Lithium-ion batteries help your life run more efficiently, powering tech products such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, cameras and more. However, if mistreated or damaged, their volatility can lead to big problems.

Anderson Township Fire Chief Rick Martin offers a few words of caution when dealing with lithium batteries as he observes an increasing number of fires associated with the products. “Lithium-ion batteries are inherently safe, but accidents, improper use or improperly assembled batteries are subject to a rare situation called ‘thermal runaway,’” he said. “Thermal runaway is caused by the battery overheating, physical damage to the battery or an electrical fault within the battery. When this occurs, there can be an intense release of energy in the form of heat and flammable/toxic gases, potentially resulting in a sudden, intense fire event.”

Suggestions for safe use include:

·       Be sure to specifically use the cord/power adapter and charger that is made specifically for that device; do not interchange batteries/chargers.

·       Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on charging and storing and keep batteries out of direct sunlight.

·       Make sure the system has the UL (Underwriter’s Laboratories) mark.

·       When charging, make sure the charging unit is on a hard surface that is not likely to support combustion (e.g., countertop, tabletop, floor, metal shelving, etc.)

·       If a battery starts to change shape, emit smoke, or if an odor or noises are detected from the battery, discontinue use, move the device to the outside to a hard surface away from any combustible items (if safe to do so), and call 911 immediately.

·       Lithium-ion batteries are sensitive to physical damage – do not use them if a deformity is noticed.

Lithium batteries cannot be thrown into the trash or in residential recycling receptacles. This is illegal and is also a fire hazard.

Martin noted that a local lithium battery fire occurred when a battery charger in a basement caught fire. “The fire was detected by a smoke alarm. However as it was in a remote location, a fire like this can get a substantial start before it was detected,” he said. “This is similar to lithium-ion fires in a garage (where a lot of lithium-ion batteries are both charged or stored) and a location where smoke detectors are relatively rare due to the environment. The fire that ensued was substantial.”

Hamilton County Resource’s Solid Waste Manager, Michelle Balz, noted that Rumpke and the Cincinnati Recycling and Reuse Hub have partnered on a pilot to collect lithium-ion batteries at fire stations. The closest collection site is at the Cincinnati Fire Department Lunken Station #18, 478 Wilmer Ave. in Cincinnati.

An up-to-date recycling and reuse search engine also details places where residents can recycle lithium-ion batteries. Visit for more information.