Seattle Public Utilities announces ban on battery disposal in garbage

January 31, 2024
Seattle Fire Department Engine

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has declared a ban on disposing of all types of batteries in the garbage.

Effective January 1, 2024, the SPU Director’s Rule prohibits the disposal of batteries, items with embedded batteries, and electronics, including computers, monitors, and TVs, in garbage facilities.

This comprehensive ban spans from small button cell and alkaline batteries to lithium-ion batteries used in e-bikes and electric vehicles.

The rule is a response to the risks posed by improper disposal of batteries.

Batteries are essential in powering various devices, but they can become hazardous if not discarded correctly.

They can cause fires, endangering solid waste collection staff, facilities, vehicles, and the community.

Officials stress the importance of proper battery disposal

Seattle’s Mayor, Bruce Harrell, emphasized the significance of the new rule: “Too often residents are confused about how to dispose of batteries – this new Director’s Rule provides needed clarification to keep communities and our employees safe.

“Seattle has long been a leader when it comes to curbside recycling and composting, and this Rule goes further to protect people and the planet.”

Fire Chief Harold Scoggins shared concerns about the increasing incidents of lithium-ion battery fires: “In the last two years, the Seattle Fire Department has responded to 79 lithium-ion battery fires, often involving e-scooters, e-bikes and portable electronics.

“This is a growing fire safety concern across the nation as consumers purchase more items with lithium-ion batteries.

“Fires involving batteries can start and spread quickly, so properly storing, charging, and disposing of batteries becomes key to preventing fires where injuries and property loss could occur.”

Health and environmental risks of improper battery disposal

Batteries not only contain hazardous chemicals but also pose risks to human health and the environment.

Materials like mercury, lead, cadmium, lithium, and acids can leak from batteries, causing significant damage.

SPU General Manager and CEO Andrew Lee highlighted the dual nature of batteries as both toxic and valuable: “Many electronic products and batteries contain materials that are toxic if disposed of, and they are also highly valuable.

“These materials can and should be recycled safely into new products.

“Reusing and recycling used electronic products and batteries keeps these toxic materials out of our landfills and helps to reduce the negative impacts of producing new products on our air, water, and climate.”

Safe disposal options for Seattle residents

Seattle residents can dispose of their batteries and electronics through various safe channels:

  • Free drop-off at SPU North or South Transfer Stations, Household Hazardous Waste Management facilities, or partner retail locations.
  • Special Item Pickup at home for a nominal charge.
  • Damaged or defective batteries should be dropped off at a Household Hazardous Waste Management facility, free of charge.

For electronics:

  • Free drop-off at SPU North Transfer Station or E-cycle WA locations.
  • Special Item Pickup at home, with charges varying based on the item size.

The new Director’s Rule addresses the immediate need for safe and proper disposal of batteries.

This measure is particularly crucial as the product stewardship program passed by the Washington State Legislature in 2023 will not take effect until 2027.

For more information on safe battery disposal, residents can visit Seattle’s utility service website.

Additionally, for details about the fire dangers posed by batteries, information is available on Seattle’s fireline website.

FSJA Comment

This directive from Seattle Public Utilities marks a significant step towards environmental sustainability and public safety.

The ban on disposing of batteries in the garbage addresses a critical issue of fire hazards and environmental damage.

The leadership shown by Seattle in waste management and recycling sets an example for other cities.

The clear guidelines provided for the disposal of batteries and electronics will not only reduce the risk of fires but also encourage responsible recycling practices.

This initiative underlines the importance of community involvement in environmental protection and the necessity of adapting to the evolving challenges in waste management.

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