It is important that lithium batteries do not go in the trash or into recycling containers. Lithium batteries need to be kept separate from other batteries and recycling.

Possible sources of lithium batteries include greeting cards, talking cards, external cell phone batteries, hoverboards, remote vacuums, power tools, earbuds, and other small electronic devices.  All these seemingly small devices can be damaged and cause fires in recycling or solid waste containers, trucks, compactors, etc.

Lithium Batteries need the terminals taped with nonconductive material so that the terminals do not contact other battery terminals. Examples of non-conductive materials:

  • Electrical tape
  • Packing tape
  • Duct tape

* If batteries are going to be sent to a recycler, try not to cover the entire battery so that sorters can determine the type.

Lithium batteries should be stored separately from other rechargeable batteries.

If the battery is reactive, place the battery in a non-combustible container, such as a metal container, away from any combustible materials. Lithium batteries when they are reactive become bloated and distended, sometimes will smoke. Please use caution and only move reactive batteries if it is safe to do so and if you are trained to do so. Place the reactive lithium battery into a non-combustible container should also contain completely dry sand. It is important not to store lithium batteries in wet environments.

If a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery overheats, hisses, or bulges, immediately move the device away from flammable materials and place it on a non-combustible surface. If possible, remove the battery and put it outdoors away from any other materials to burn out. You may also put the device outside and keep it thereof for a least 6 hours. Contact the local fire department immediately and ask for advice on how to proceed.

A small Li-ion fire can be handled like any other combustible fire. For the best result, use a foam extinguisher, Carbon Dioxide (CO2), ABC dry chemical, powdered graphite, copper powder, or soda (sodium carbonate) to extinguish the fire. Halon is also used as a fire suppressant. All fires should be handled by professionals who are trained to fight fires.

During thermal runaway in a Li-ion battery, the temperature can quickly rise to 500°C (932°F), at which point the cell catches fire or explodes. This is known as “venting with flame”; however, the term “rapid disassembly” is preferred in the battery industry. The exhausting gases are carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, as well as gases formed by the vaporizing electrolyte. All fires should be handled by professionals who are trained to fight fires.

A large Li-ion fire, such as one caused by an electric vehicle, may need to burn out, as water is ineffective. Water with copper material can be used, but this may not be available and is costly for fire departments. When encountering a fire with a lithium-metal battery, only use a Class D fire extinguisher. Lithium-metal contains lithium that reacts with water and makes the fire worse. Only use the Class D fire extinguisher on lithium fires. All fires should be handled by professionals who are trained to fight fires.

CAUTION: Do not use a Class D fire extinguisher to put out other types of fires; make certain regular extinguishers are also available. With all battery fires, allow ample ventilation while the battery burns itself out.

This Page Last Updated: November 16, 2022 at 3:02 PM