Recycling plant fire blamed on lithium-ion batteries

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OUTAGAMIE COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - After putting out a fire, Outagamie County is reminding people about what can and cannot be recycled.

An Outagamie County recycling plant worker holds a lithium-ion laptop computer battery that started a fire in the plant's compactor. The recycling plant often sees batteries and electronics that should not be put in recycling bins (WBAY photo)

The fire was in one of the compactors at the recycling plant Tuesday.

The county tweeted that lithium-ion batteries were the cause.

On Thursday, Action 2 News was shown the device that someone tossed into a regular recycle bin.

"After it was completely cooled and out, they ended up sorting through the material to try to find what was the source of the problem. They ended up finding that it was a lithium battery. We believe it was a laptop battery," said Alex Nett, who works at the Outagamie County Recycling and Solid Waste plant.

The fire was put out quickly after a worker saw smoke and efforts were made to detach the compacter from the rest of the building.

The incident left no visible damage to the equipment.

Nett added, "The issue is that they overheat and it can cause the materials around them to ignite and cause fires."

The county emphasizes batteries and electronics are not allowed in mixed recycling. They need to be taken to specific drop-off locations.

You're asked to help spread the word and tell your family and friends.

"While they were looking through the materials after the fire was out, they did find a bunch of other... electronics and kids toys that did have batteries in them as well. So it wasn't just this one; that was an example. We get stuff all the time that shouldn't be in there," said Nett.