Exploding lithium batteries are causing fires in Oregon’s landfills

Exploding lithium-ion batteries are leading to more fires in Oregon’s landfills and recycling centers, prompting action from state and local governments.

Deschutes County Solid Waste Director Tim Brownell said his county’s landfill has seen 21 lithium-related fires in the past three months. Staff went from seeing battery fires once a month to multiple times a week.

“(Lithium batteries) are everywhere in the system,” Brownell said. “It’s a public safety concern and it’s a concern for the infrastructure that are taxpayer investments.”

Lithium batteries can be found in a variety of household objects, ranging from cars to power tools and from e-bikes to birthday cards that play music when opened. When run over by tractors or crushed in a trash compactor, they have the potential to explode and catch fire.