Plastic bales at Ridge Meadows Recycling Depot, bound for a plant in Delta. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Bear spray, bullets among hazards that have caused fires at B.C. recycling depots

Recycling BC says that hazardous materials mixed in with paper, plastics are dangerous to workers

Recycle BC is sounding the alarm over the rising number of explosive and hazardous materials being dropped off at recycling depots across the province.

There have been seven fires this year – all caused by dangerous materials – with a number of the blazes temporarily closing down recycling facilities.

“Earlier this month a resident put 58 rounds of live ammunition into their recycling,” David Lefebvre with Recycle BC said in a news release. “We need people to think before they put something that is potentially explosive and deadly into a recycling bin.”

An audit recently done by the not-for-profit recycling organization found that two-thirds of container loads had hazardous materials such as bear spray, bullets and propane canisters mixed in with papers and plastics.

That’s a 47 percent increase over the last five years.

READ MORE: One million recyclable bottles ‘lost’ daily in B.C., foundation says

Not properly disposing of these hazardous objects can prove dangerous for workers who collect and process recycling, and risk of fires or explosions is especially high for material collection vehicles and receiving facilities due to the significant amount of paper on site. The combination of easily flammable material, plenty of oxygen and large amounts of material sorted into piles means that sparks can smolder for lengthy periods of time and go undetected – until it’s too late.

“Sorting and recycling processes are fast-paced, with material constantly getting moved, compacted, and crushed,” said Oleg Vinokurov, industrial engineering manager at Green by Nature.

“A recycling baler can develop pressures of hundreds of pounds per square inch. Compacted at these pressures, any compressed gas cylinder becomes a potential bomb for our employees.”

The organization is reminding the public never to put the following materials in with recycling:

  • Butane and propane canisters
  • Batteries (especially lithium-ion batteries)
  • Compressed gases
  • Ammunition
  • Knives
  • Sharps
  • Bear spray

Recycling BC is urging residents to contact the Recycling Council of B.C. if they aren’t sure how to properly dispose of a hazardous item. The council also has a “recyclepedia” online where anyone can search drop-off locations for specific items.


@ashwadhwani
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