If you read this, you probably recycle and that’s AWESOME!
While your intentions are good, some of you are putting items in your recycling that could cause serious harm to Vancouver’s material recovery facilities and the people who work there. You may not have realized, but careless recycling can kill.
This is no hyperbole. In fact, BC’s major recycling collectors and processors have seen an increase in fires this year, almost all of which have been caused by improper recycling. These fires have endangered lives and also forced the temporary closure of recycling facilities in BC.
With that in mind, we’ve partnered with Recycle BC, to highlight the explosive and hazardous materials British Columbians are placing in the province’s residential packaging and paper recycling system. Let’s do our part and make sure we recycle safely.
One of the most common hazardous items to wind up in material recovery facilities are lithium-ion batteries, including old cell phone and computer batteries. These items can start small hidden fires in recycling facilities that can easily turn into life-threatening blazes. Fire presents a real danger for workers in BC’s recycling industry and almost all of these fires are caused by our improper recycling.
Across North American recycling industry saw a 26% increase in the number of fires in waste and recycling facilities in 2018, with 371 unique incidents reported between February 2018 and January 2019 alone.
BUTANE, PROPANE AND COMPRESSED GAS CANISTERS
Not only can these items lead to disastrous fires, they can actually explode. The risk for fires or explosions is especially high in material collection vehicles and receiving facilities where they can easily be compressed during the collection and recycling process. The combination of easily flammable material, plenty of oxygen and large amounts of material sorted into piles where sparks can smoulder undetected makes the presence of hazardous material especially precarious.
KNIVES AND SHARP OBJECTS
Recycle BC audits of materials in 2019 have found that two thirds of loads of containers had hazardous materials present, which includes batteries, propane and butane canisters, even road flares as well as sharp objects, like needles and knives. Remember, there are real people picking up and sorting through your recycling, often times by hand. Sharp objects obviously pose a substantial threat to these individuals.
LIGHTERS AND BULLETS
Yes, BC residents are putting bullets in their residential recycling bins... This should be obvious, but lighters and bullets can also lead to fires and explosions that greatly risk the lives of recycling industry employees, and anyone that might live or walk near your recycling bins, including you!
THIS IS HOW WE CAN RECYCLE PROPERLY
We simply need to be more aware and ensure that what we’re putting in our bins is actually an accepted material and NOT something that is potentially explosive and deadly. Remember, just because you can’t recycle these items doesn’t mean you can just throw them in the garbage either. Items such as batteries and fuel tanks have specific disposable processes or recycling programs designed to keep people safe. Fortunately there are disposable facilities that specialize in hazardous items located throughout the province.
Recycle BC is a not-for-profit organization responsible for residential packaging and paper product recycling throughout British Columbia, servicing over 1.8 million households or over 98% of BC.