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Fires plaguing Cincinnati Rumpke recycling facility caused by dangerous items

Items like aerosol cans, lithium-ion batteries must be recycled a specific way
rumpke recycling fire.JPG
Posted at 1:20 PM, Jul 27, 2023

CINCINNATI — This month alone, five different fires have broken out at Rumpke's Cincinnati Recycling Facility in St. Bernard as a result of items making it into the facility that shouldn't, according to a spokesperson with Rumpke.

"This week we experienced our fifth fire at our Cincinnati Recycling Facility and all of these fires have been caused by the same thing: wrong items being placed in recycling containers," said Molly Yeager, communications manager with Rumpke. "It's been aerosol cans that still have material left in them or were flammable to begin with. It's been batteries that have caused problems, specifically lithium ion batteries."

While aerosol cans are accepted by Rumpke as recyclable materials, residents have to ensure they're completely empty before placing them in a recycling bin for collection, Yeager said. The can's tip and lid must be removed and all air and contents inside must be vacated before it can be safely recycled.

However, many aerosol cans bear a symbol indicating its contents are considered hazardous household waste. Cans with those types of contents can't be recycled by Rumpke at all, Yeager said. Instead, residents have to contact a solid waste disposal facility for options.

Hamilton County provides resources and options available to residents for the disposal of many different kinds of hazardous items.

Lithium-ion batteries, however, are more complicated. Rumpke has partnered with the Cincinnati Recycling & Reuse Hub and several local fire departments to ease the struggle residents may have in disposing of their batteries.

As part of the partnership, collection points have been set up at different fire departments in Hamilton County:

  • Cincinnati Fire Department Hyde Park Station #46, 2731 Erie Avenue, Cincinnati, OH  45208
  • Cincinnati Fire Department Lunken Station#18, 478 Wilmer Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45226, Cincinnati, OH 45226
  • St. Bernard Fire Department Station #91, 4200 Vine Street, 45217
  • Colerain Township Fire Department Station #25, 3251 Springdale Road, Cincinnati, OH  45251
  • Green Township Fire Department Station #53, 6303 Harrison Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45247

The program is still in its infancy, but Yeager said there are plans to slowly expand it if things go well.

Surveillance footage shows firefighters battling fire at Rumpke's recycling facility

Meanwhile, Yeager said the recycling plant's operations are in danger every time a fire breaks out because of an item that shouldn't have made its way inside the facility.

"It's definitely an unnerving trend," said Yeager. "We need to protect that recycling facility so that we can continue to recycle here in Greater Cincinnati."

The fires are a safety risk for employees who work inside the recycling plant, Yeager said. Although parts of the recycling process are automated by machinery, there are still people working inside the recycling center, she said.

"But it's not just a hazard at the recycling facility, it's a hazard in our trucks," said Yeager. "All of these trucks are compaction trucks. Those batteries, if improperly handled, can be compacted in the back of the truck and then also cause a fire in the truck."

If a fire were to get out of hand within the recycling facility, Yeager said it could halt all operations.

This would have a huge impact on Greater Cincinnati residents, because recycling would become mostly unavailable while Rumpke is forced to rebuild its facility, she said.

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