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Source: Auckland Council

Hazardous waste in recycling bins has caused a truck fire – another challenge essential workers would rather not be facing under Alert Level 3.

The smoke coming from the hopper was noticed as the truck was collecting in the streets of Glendene this week (Wednesday 13 October). It was diverted to a safe area where the load could be dumped, with Fire and Emergency staff called out to deal with the smouldering problem. 

On top of the danger to the truck driver, the public and emergency services staff, the entire truck’s worth of recycling has had to be safely dampened down and sent to landfill.

Recycling truck fires have been slowly on the rise in recent years, and the main problem is people putting hazardous waste including lithium batteries and gas cannisters into their bins. Because of the compacting equipment in the trucks, there is a significant chance of a fire occurring when items are crushed. Electronics and gas items should never be placed in kerbside rubbish or recycling bins.

Councillor Richard Hills, Chair of the Environment and Climate Change Committee asks people to take care with recycling “While the overwhelming majority do the right thing, I’d remind Aucklanders to please keep hazardous items out of the recycling. It puts our essential workers in harm’s way, particularly right now during Alert Level 3 when there’s already greater risk.”

“The damage to vehicles and clean-up after a fire is also costly to ratepayers, not to mention the significant waste of recyclable material that ends up in landfill.”

Fire and Emergency Auckland City District Manager, Vaughan Mackereth wants Aucklanders to think twice before putting hazardous waste in their recycling and general waste bins, as these can cause potentially dangerous fires after the items have been picked up.

“Recent fires caused by hazardous items on trucks are generally avoidable, if items are disposed of responsibly. Please check with the council on how what items are deemed hazardous and how to dispose of them.”

Vaughan Mackereth says being careful with hazardous items will also help in reducing the number of callouts during COVID-19 Alert Level 3 and reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure for firefighters.

Things that should never go in your kerbside rubbish or recycling bins

Certain types of hazardous waste are not suitable for our kerbside rubbish or recycling bins.  Auckland Council advises that anything that is flammable, toxic, explosive, corrosive, or radioactive, should be taken to transfer stations that specialise in managing hazardous waste.  Common examples of hazardous waste include most chemicals, paint, acid, gas cooker aerosol canisters, gas cylinders, and many battery types, including lead, mercury, nickel, car, and zinc-based batteries. These can be taken to an authorised battery recycler. 

Lithium-based batteries used to power items such as mobile/cell phones, hearing aids, power banks, laptops, electric vehicles, power tools, and vapers are also hazardous items, which cannot be put in our rubbish or recycling bins. These outlets can help you to safely recycle or dispose of them.

It’s easy to get it right

Auckland Council has a useful online tool that explains how to safely dispose of unwanted items if people are unsure as to whether an item can be recycled or not.

MIL OSI