A lithium ion battery ignited at Ecomaine in Portland on Jan. 20. Courtesy photo

SCARBOROUGH — After an ion lithium battery ignited at Ecomaine in Portland on Jan. 20, the organization urged residents to properly dispose of hazardous waste.

Although the fire was contained quickly that afternoon — when workers noticed a smoldering section of material that began to create smoke, they called the Portland Fire Department — lithium ion and other rechargeable batteries are a risk to recycling facilities, said a press release.

“The fire appears to have begun when a lithium ion battery from a drill or another tool was broken and volatile chemicals inside interacted and ignited nearby materials,” according to the release.

Ecomaine officials ask that residents treat lithium ion batteries as hazardous. Lithium ion and other rechargeable batteries pose significant risks to recycling facilities across the country, including some that have been lost entirely to fire.

Lithium ion batteries, while useful for technology, can be dangerous to waste management and recycling centers, said Ecomaine officials. Courtesy photo

Kevin Roche, CEO of Ecomaine, said the fire was a reminder of the consequences that come with incorrectly recycled m“We are exceptionally glad that no one was hurt, and that we are able to re-open today,” said ecomaine CEO Kevin Roche. “However, we need to impress upon Maine residents that rechargeable batteries must not go into the normal waste stream.  This event reminds us that failing to follow disposal directions can have serious, real-life consequences, and can put livelihoods and property at risk.”

There are a variety of ways that people can safely disposing batteries, said Matt Grondin, communications manager at Ecomaine.

“Mainers can visit ecomaine.org or Call2Recycle.org to find a location near them — a hardware store, a transfer station or another facility — where they can safely drop off rechargeable batteries,” he said. “This way, they won’t endanger our staff, our plant, or Maine’s recyclables.”

He added, “Rechargeable batteries are a great technology. But they are becoming much more prevalent all the time, and they can be dangerous if they are put into everyday recycling or trash.”

The town of Scarborough website includes a section for waste disposal and dates for household hazardous waste drop-off days.

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