TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) — What may have sparked a fire at a recycling plant near Taylor on Jan. 14 is something plaguing those centers across the country.
Two firefighters were hurt trying to put out the flames that spread from a Balcones Resources recycling plant in between Taylor and Hutto last Friday. The company said it was the second fire at one of its plants in a week.
“Because of the dry and windy conditions during both of those weeks, the fire was not contained,” said Joaquin Mariel, chief commercial officer with Balcones Resources.
The Balcones Resources recycling center serves millions of people across Austin, Travis County and surrounding areas.
Mariel said the two fires are believed to have been started by lithium-ion batteries that ignited as the load the material was in was transported. The company has a message as it looks to achieve a zero waste goal.
“Do not put these batteries in your recycling bin,” said Mariel.
The recyclables that burned were no longer usable, and service was disrupted, but more importantly the workers’ lives were in danger.
“These are community members, these are people that live in the City of Austin. They’re having to be around this, and they’re having to deal with it when we do have issues like this come up,” said Mariel.
WATCH BELOW: Past coverage of the recycling plant fire from Jan. 14. KXAN was live at the scene.
Mariel said these batteries found in electronics like your phone are causing major disruptions to recycling plants across the country.
According to a 2021 Environmental Protection Agency report, there have 254 fires at 64 waste facilities, likely caused by lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries.
“Among the facilities were MRFs, transportation vehicles (garbage trucks, etc.), landfills, and other waste management industry locations (electronics recyclers, transfer stations, etc.). The included fires occurred between 2013 and 2020 in 28 states and in all 10 EPA Regions.”2021 EPA Report: Analysis of lithium-ion battery fires in waste management and recycling
According to the EPA report, some fires were large and destructive, destroying entire facilities and causing millions in damages. Firefighters were also hurt, and the fires led facilities to stop collecting.
There are several local places you can drop off batteries for recycling. The following information is provided as a convenience, but Austin Resource Recovery cannot guarantee its accuracy.
Locations and COVID-19 restrictions change often. Many of these locations are not equipped to handle other types of materials. The center recommends calling to make sure the location is active.