GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- A Brown County, Wisconsin Resource Recovery employee's quick thinking stopped a fire from breaking out in the recyclables transfer station last month.
Resource recovery technician Chris Blan said an improperly disposed of lithium battery is to blame.
"Our employee here had smelled something burning, saw some white smoke coming from our pile of recyclables and was quick to separate that damaged battery," said Blan.
Blan said the MacBook Pro's lithium battery pack was tossed in with someone's curbside recyclables and likely got damaged in the truck on its way to the facility.
"It was physically hot to the touch," said Blan. "We had to wait 10-15 minutes for it to cool down to remove it from our floor."
Blan said it's become a major problem as lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries become more popular and smaller in electronics.
"This is a lithium polymer battery that came from a Kindle," said Blan. "They are thin, no hard casing around them and they are pliable so if not handled properly, if thrown in the trash, the compactor truck will damage it to the point where they would easily spark and catch on fire."
Blan said lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries should never be thrown in with your curbside recyclables, but rather disposed of at Brown County's Resources Recovery Facility. Blan said you can also dispose of your lithium batteries at other businesses that sell them, such as Batteries Plus.
Blan said when disposing of batteries, they should be wrapped in non-conductive material.
"Duct tape or electrical tape," said Blan. "Put it in a baggy, one battery per bag to prevent any of the terminals from touching and causing a spark."
Lithium batteries are often found in electronics, such as laptops, smartphones and drones. If you aren't sure if your electronic has a lithium battery, look for 'LI ION' or 'LIPO' which stands for lithium polymer.
It may seem like a simple ask of residents to dispose of their lithium batteries properly, but Blan said it makes all the difference when it lands in their hands.
"It will prevent future fires at collection places," said Blan.