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Tampa officials reminding residents of the hazards of trashing lithium-ion batteries

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Tampa officials reminding residents of the hazards of trashing lithium-ion batteries

The City of Tampa is taking proactive steps to raise awareness about the dangers of disposing of lithium-ion batteries and other hazardous household waste.

The Solid Waste Department has seen a recent trend in “hot loads” during the spring and summer months, a term used to describe spontaneous combustions and fires inside trash or recycling trucks because of overheating lithium-ion batteries, chemicals, cleaning solutions, propane tanks or electronics improperly disposed of in bins. Solid Waste drivers are forced to quickly dump a load of trash to avoid the fire spreading throughout the truck, as seen in the video below recorded on June 30, 2023, on the 2000 block of W Azeele Street in Tampa.

Thus far in 2023, the Tampa Solid Waste Department has experienced three hot load fires. In 2022, the department experienced two. Tampa Fire Rescue has responded to more than 1,200 trash/dumpster fires in the last year, however, not all the fires can be traced back to improper disposal.

“As temperatures rise this summer, there is a risk of hazardous materials heating up and reacting dangerously when combined with other waste in garbage trucks,” said Fire Chief Barbara Tripp. “Unlike a typical household fire, lithium-ion battery fires produce toxic gas, create an explosive environment, and can be extremely difficult for firefighters to extinguish.”

“We are all responsible for keeping our environment, our amazing city and the people who serve it safe,” said Mayor Jane Castor. “Through our partnership with Hillsborough County, we have created an easy way for Tampa residents to properly dispose of batteries, electronics, and chemicals that don’t belong in their trash bins.”

The City has contracted Hillsborough County to allow Tampa residents to take their household hazardous waste to multiple locations. Qualifying items and a list of locations can be found via the City of Tampa Solid Waste website.

"It is crucial for residents to be mindful of what they are discarding and ensure that they are disposing of hazardous materials properly," said Latrice Underwood, Tampa Solid Waste Program Superintendent. “Once hazardous waste is inside the trucks, there’s no way to pull those items out individually.”

To mitigate the hazards of hot loads, Solid Waste drivers have been equipped with fire extinguishers to address controllable fires. Additionally, they are trained to monitor cameras within their trucks for signs of smoke or fire, enabling rapid response to potential ignition.

To assist residents in making responsible waste disposal decisions, the City of Tampa also offers a helpful resource: the Tampa Trash and Recycling app.

This user-friendly app allows individuals to access information on acceptable waste items by using the “waste sort” feature. By providing a convenient way to identify proper disposal methods, the city hopes to reduce the instances of hot loads and potential hazards associated with improper waste disposal.