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Proper disposal of hazardous waste critical to environment

It’s easy to toss an item in the trash bag or recycling bin without much thought. But sometimes, there’s danger lurking within a seemingly innocent item.

One prime example of this lies with lithium-ion batteries, which can be found in common items such as cell phones, laptops, E-cigarettes, scooters, smoke alarms, toys and even some vehicles, but can pose a fire hazard if damaged.

And tossing these items in the trash without a second thought can have potentially disastrous consequences, Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority officials said in a letter to area municipalities on Wednesday.

“As you all know, we had a landfill fire at MCSWMA in December 2020,” MCSWMA Director of Operations Brad Austin wrote in the letter. “Fortunately, no staff members were injured, and we avoided any major environmental issues. The cause of this fire was a suspected hot load.

“On Feb. 3, 2021, one of our landfill operators identified a bag of waste that was on fire while processing a load of solid waste. The load was from a nursing home delivered via a private hauler. Upon investigation, a bag of waste within the load ignited when ran over by the landfill compactor.

The bag contained four lithium-ion batteries. The damaged batteries were the cause of the fire. The fire was extinguished, and no injury/damage occurred to our staff, the landfill or equipment.”

Austin emphasized the hazards posed by lithium-ion batteries, urging residents to dispose of them through MCSWMA’s household hazardous waste program instead of putting them in with trash or recycling streams.

“The authority offers recycling options for all battery types including lithium-ion through our household hazardous waste program. In addition, we offer a residential E-waste drop off,” he said. “We accept these items year-round. Recycling options are available to businesses via manufacturers programs and others. We can help facilitate these activities.”

We hope that area residents will heed this warning and keep close tabs on how they dispose of items containing lithium-ion batteries, as improper disposal of hazardous waste can create dangerous situations for waste haulers and landfill employees.

Furthermore, improper disposal of hazardous waste can harm wildlife, pollute the air or contaminate water, which — in the best-case-scenario — may require the use of taxpayer dollars to address or, in the worst-case scenario, cause irreparable harm to the health of an ecosystem.

So please, carefully consider what you place curbside, as we’ve seen firsthand how choices about household hazardous waste disposal can impact the safety of our community and the quality of our environment.

For more information on safe recycling and solid waste procedures, visit recycle906.com or call MCSWMA at 906-249-4125 with any questions.

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