Are you tossing your cellphone and laptop batteries into your blue bin? How about lighters, propane, or butane canisters? If yes, then you are potentially causing explosions and fires at material recovery facilities and in material collection vehicles, endangering the lives of BC’s recycling collectors and processors.
There is an alarming increase of hazardous waste that British Columbians are depositing in the province’s residential recycling stream—a behaviour that has caused a resurgence of concern from Recycle BC.
Follow these expert tips to help you rethink what you recycle and where, and to help keep recycling workers, facilities, and the environment safe from not-accepted, hazardous materials.
- Problem Materials When incorrectly disposed, there are numerous materials that can pose a health risk, cause personal injury, or even result in the death for collectors and processors. Incorrect disposal of hazardous materials can also lead to the destruction of BC recycling facilities. Recycle BC 2019 material audits found that two thirds container loads contained hazardous materials.
From items related to camping and outdoor living, like propane tanks for home barbecues and camp stoves, to electronics including mobile devices, curbside recycling collection does not accept the following materials: lithium-ion and household batteries, single-use propane and butane canisters, needles, flammable liquids, helium tanks, knives, flares, electronics, bear spray, ammunition, lighters, paint.
- Read Warning Labels Hazardous materials should not only be kept out of recycling bins but also out of the waste stream. For example, when household batteries end up in landfills, they can leak toxic mercury and lead, contaminating the soil and groundwater. Always read the label. Any products left in packaging that contain corrosive, toxic, flammable, or reactive components can cause major problems at the recycling facility and are often labelled with hazard text/symbols: CAUTION, WARNING, CORROSIVE, EXPLOSIVE, FLAMMABLE, POISONOUS or TOXIC. Keep these materials out of your residential recycling bins.
- Be Aware of Not-accepted Materials Be mindful of what you put in your recycling bins and ensure it’s an accepted material and 100% empty—not something that is potentially explosive and deadly. The risk for fires or explosions is especially high for material collection vehicles and receiving facilities due to significant amounts of paper, as well as the opportunity for the items to be compressed, causing explosions. The combination of easily flammable material, plenty of oxygen, and large amounts of material where sparks can smolder undetected for lengthy periods, makes the presence of hazardous material especially precarious. View the materials accepted in your curbside recycling bin as part of the Recycle BC program.
- Take Action—Change Your Behaviour Be part of the solution to help prevent potential tragedies and ensure waste workers are not exposed to the risk of explosions or fires. Do not put hazardous materials in your recycling bins, your garbage cans, or down the drain or toilet. Don’t just assume that because it’s recyclable it belongs in a particular bin or that checking for a triangle symbol before tossing whatever it is in the blue bin is due diligence: it’s not. It only takes a few minutes to plan to properly dispose of your hazardous waste.
- Find a Location to Recycle or Dispose Safely When material is not allowed in the curbside bin, it doesn’t mean it can’t be recycled somewhere else. Find a disposal location so problem items can be processed safely. Visit RecycleBC.ca/Hazardous to learn more and access the online depot search tool. You can also download the latest version of the free BC Recyclepedia App to find your closest recycling depot or contact the Recycling Hotline at 1.800.667.4321 or 604.RECYCLE (604.732.9253).