PLANO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — They can be found in everything from toys to phones to computers. Batteries power our lives and devices. But how you dispose of them could pose a hidden risk.
"If these batteries get punctured, they have the ability to explode," said Guillermo Pabon, the recycling operations manager at Republic Services of Plano.
Pabon is warning consumers against putting "e-waste" in their trash or curbside recycling bins. He oversees the Plano recycling facility, where workers process millions of tons of recycling every year.
Batteries mixed with paper goods is a recipe for a flammable disaster.
Pabon said his workers extinguished three fires just in the last week. Daily, he claimed they find batteries by the hundreds.
"Scary, it's very, very scary," he said.
Pabon added he's noticed an uptick in the volume of electronic devices his facility has received since the holidays.
"I don't know if people are getting rid of their old devices, but I don't think it's a coincidence we've had three incidents in a week," Pabon said.
"While the exact cause of the fire has not been confirmed, it was likely caused by a battery," Pabon said.
Last year, the Environmental Research & Education Foundation identified 343 fires at facilities within the waste and recycling industry in North America.
The term "e-waste" refers to all electronics ranging from computers to toys.
To see where you can drop off your device, visit call2recycle.org and enter your zip code. There, you will find locations that accept used batteries and devices.
"It doesn't belong to your curbside program, but it can be recycled," Pabon said.
Contact your city to see where you can bring batteries because some offer a specific recycling program.
Many companies, such as Republic Services, offer customers a mail-in program that lets people send their batteries in a secure envelope.
Finally, check with local stores such as Best Buy, Lowes, or Home Depot, which will usually take used electronics off your hands.
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