Jan 31, 2024 - News

Seattle bans batteries in the trash, citing fire risk

Illustration of a series of batteries on fire creating an upward bar chart.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Seattle residents are now banned from putting batteries of all kinds in the garbage.

Why it matters: Batteries can leak harmful chemicals or catch fire, posing a risk to sanitation workers and the environment, city officials said.

What's happening: The new rule banning batteries in Seattle trash bins applies to small alkaline batteries — such as the kind used in most toys — as well as to lithium-ion batteries that power devices like cellphones.

  • TVs, computers and monitors are also banned from the garbage under the rules, which took effect Jan. 1, Seattle Public Utilities said in a news release.

By the numbers: The Seattle Fire Department said it has responded to 79 fires linked to lithium-ion batteries in the past two years.

  • Many of those fires involved e-scooters, e-bikes and portable electronics, Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said in a written statement.

What they're saying: You won't get fined if you mess up and throw a battery or computer monitor in your trash.

  • But workers will put a tag on your dumpster or trash cart asking you to remove those items if they see them, utility spokesperson Sabrina Register told Axios.
  • If you do it repeatedly, "SPU will reach out with a phone call, letter or both to educate." Register told Axios.

Be smart: You can drop off batteries for free at Seattle Public Utilities' north or south transfer stations; one of its two hazardous waste facilities; or at certain retail locations.

Plus: If you're unsure where something goes, you can use this online tool.

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