Lithium-ion batteries have caused numerous fires around the country, both in e-scrap facilities and in materials recovery facilities. | Mehaniq/Shutterstock

An e-scrap firm recently described the fire hazard lithium-ion batteries present and emphasized the importance of identifying and properly handling them.

Brockport, N.Y. processor Sunnking was interviewed by USA Today about the dangers associated with handling lithium-ion batteries in a recycling facility. They are found in numerous types of electronics and often carry residual charge after they’re disposed of.

Matt Plummer, director of operations at Sunnking, described to the newspaper his experience handling a lithium-ion battery that had a small hole in its casing. He noticed it sparking underneath the surface and took it outside the facility to a metal bin. The battery was bent slightly in the process, and it caught fire.

“They’re fast and furious, and they burn hot,” Plummer told USA Today.

The batteries have caused numerous fires around the country, both in e-scrap facilities, where companies often have protocols in place to prevent fire escalation, and in materials recovery facilities (MRFs), which sort curbside recyclables. At MRFs, surrounded by paper and plastics, a lithium-ion battery that sparks can cause major damage.

These hazards have led regulators to examine safety measures; one rulemaking process is currently underway in California.

Plummer told USA Today one of the challenges is simply identifying devices that contain lithium-ion batteries, because they are becoming more and more prevalent in electronics.

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