How do you safely dispose of lithium-ion batteries?
Lithium-ion batteries you want to dispose of are technically hazardous waste, since they may contain toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and other pollutants that could contaminate water supplies and ecosystems.
As a result, the CFA says that lithium-ion batteries should never be placed in your rubbish or recycling bin. In fact, they can even cause fires in household bins, garbage trucks and waste or recycling facilities.
Luckily, there are many places you can freely and safely dispose of old or damaged lithium-ion batteries thanks to B-cycle, Australia’s national battery recycling scheme. The scheme also keeps toxic materials out of landfill, where they could contaminate groundwater and soil. If safe to do so, place leaking or damaged batteries in a clear plastic bag before taking them to a disposal facility. Find your closest disposal location here.
The CFA advises to always use gloves or other hand protection before touching or moving leaking lithium batteries. Touching a leaking lithium battery with bare hands can cause severe burns. If you incur a burn injury, seek medical attention urgently.
How do you extinguish a lithium-ion fire?
Lithium fires require different extinguishing methods to a traditional fire. You should not attempt to extinguish a lithium-ion fire yourself, because the vented battery gases, vapours and smoke are highly toxic to inhale.
If your device or charger feels extremely hot to touch, or if you notice odours, leaking, case discolouration, blistering, bulging or swelling; or abnormal popping, hissing or crackling sounds emanating from a battery or battery-operated device, the CFA advises immediately turning the power off, unplugging the device from the power outlet and moving it outside away from anything that can catch fire (if it's safe to do so). Then, evacuate the house and call 000 for a fire brigade. Even if there is no fire, the toxic fumes from a damaged lithium battery can be dangerous to inhale, and an overheated lithium-ion battery may reignite.
If smoke or flames start emitting from the battery or device, the CFA urges Victorians not to touch the device. Instead, evacuate the area and close doors as you leave (if safe to do so) to slow the spread of the fire. Call 000 for a fire brigade, advising the operator that it is a lithium-ion battery incident, and wait in a safe outdoor location for the emergency services to arrive.